Focus cancer

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2016-01-18 Focus 



Alan Rickman, a versatile actor with the most wonderful voice has died of pancreatic cancer.   

Like Bowie he was just 69. 

Andrew Griffin wrote about a 2008 study in which a bunch of people were asked “to rate 50 voices 

and then looked at the results.  It found that the best performances had a combination of good tone

speed, frequency, words per minute and intonation − and Mr Rickman came out first.”  For me a 

close second would be John Gielgud who co-starred (as the man-servant Hobson) in ‘Arthur’ with 

Dudley Moore.  Here’s an example of a beautifully delivered ‘posh putdown’: 

Moore: “Hobson, do you know the worst part, the WORST part of being me?” 

Gielgud: “I should imagine your breath, Sir.” 

Rickman’s voice is instantly recognisable.  Younger fans tend to know him best for the ‘Harry 

Potter films but a couple of others stick in my mind.  He was wonderful in ‘Truly Madly Deeply’, 

an Anthony Minghella film in which he co-starred with Juliet Stevenson.  Then there was Robin 

Hood, Prince of Thieves in which he acted everyone else off the set.  Heather Saul in the 

Independent wrote a piece which carried the headline: “Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script 

with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”  She says: 

“Speaking on stage, he told the audience that one conversation in the "terrible" script with two 

women was actually the work of his friends Ruby Wax and Peter Barnes.  Rickman said he met 

Barnes in a branch of Pizza Express, according to The Times.  “I said, ‘Will you have a look at this 

script because it’s terrible, and I need some good lines.’  So he did, and, you know, with kind of 

pizza and bacon and egg going all over the script.”  Barnes then edited a scene where his character 

would have been running down a corridor, telling him: “You should have a wench in a doorway, 

and then you should say, ‘You. My room, 10.30,’ and then turn to the other wench and say, ‘You, 

10.45’.”  He said Wax later added: "And bring a friend.”  The lines were then secretly added in by 

the director, Kevin Reynolds.  “Nobody knew this was happening except him,"  Rickman 

continued.  "And I knew it had worked because as I cleared the camera I saw about 80 members of 

the crew just go [mimed trying not to laugh].” 

I discovered a substance that had no mass, and I was like "OMG!” 

In just one week, two stars were snuffed out by ‘cancer.’  When it comes to pancreatic cancer

around 8,800 people are diagnosed in the UK each year.  They say: “God takes the good ones first” 

and that is often the case with Ca pancreas − it seems to go for the brightest and best.  Saul reminds 

us that “Steve Jobs, Patrick Swayze and Pavarotti all died of pancreatic cancer.  Sir John Hurt is 

currently the only famous survivor of the disease.”  She quotes the charity, ‘Pancreatic Cancer 

Action’ (PCA) which told The Independent: “Pancreatic cancer is sometimes called a ‘silent 

cancer” because the early symptoms are often vague and unrecognised.  Pancreatic cancer receives 

just one per cent of research funding.  Considering it’s the fifth biggest cancer killer, we think this 

is disgraceful.” 

Cancer Research UK is, as ever, a fund of information: We’re told: “At the moment, there is no 

screening test reliable enough to use for pancreatic cancer in people at average risk.  Cancer of the 

pancreas is also a relatively uncommon disease.  It would cost a lot of money to screen everyone for 

a disease that only a few people get.  So any screening test must be simple and cheap to perform.” 

Screening for the disease is, by and large, confined to those with a clear-cut family history and a 

strong predisposition at present. 

So the mainstay at present is prevention.  Cancer Research UK lists some of the ‘causes’ saying 

“Cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco all increase pancreatic cancer risk.  A large Cancer 

Research UK study looking at lifestyle factors found that nearly 1 in 3 pancreatic cancers (about 

30%) may be linked to smoking.” 

You’ll have guessed another common cause (if you didn’t know it already): “About 7 out of 10 

cases of chronic pancreatitis are due to long term heavy drinking.  Chronic pancreatitis is a known 

risk factor for cancer of the pancreas.  Some research suggests there may be a link between heavy 

drinkers and risk of pancreatic cancer.  The risk is higher in people who drink 3 or more alcoholic 

drinks a day compared to those who drink less than 1 alcoholic drink a day.” 

Cancer research UK has some more ‘risk factors’ on its list: “People with diabetes have an 

increased risk of pancreatic cancer.  Diabetes is a disease of the pancreatic cells that normally make 

insulin.  It is possible that a growing cancer actually causes some cases of diabetes, rather than the 

diabetes causing the cancer.”  Some now believe that people over 50 who develops diabetes and 

have unexplained weight loss should be investigated for other pancreatic disease, and to rule out 

pancreatic cancer.  The rationale is that most people who develop diabetes late in life are 

overweight, so diabetes and weight loss together are more unusual. 

Being overweight is a risk factor for a number of cancers – and pancreatic cancer is no exception, 

"A study has estimated that just over 1 in 10 pancreatic cancers (around 10%) in the UK in 2010 

were linked to being overweight.  This increase in risk could be because overweight people make 

more insulin.  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas." 

As for reducing your risk, the World Cancer Research Fund says that physical activity may protect 

against pancreatic cancer.  For more info Google: Cancer Research Uk Pancreatic cancer risks and 


As for those who get it ... if you’re lucky it’s caught early whilst it’s operable/still confined to the 

pancreas (in other words before it’s spread.) 

Dr John 

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