Cancer Epidemiology Unit

Women who eat organic foods no less likely to develop cancer, research finds

Million Women Study found avoiding food grown with pesticides made no difference to overall cancer risk.

Women who always or mostly eat organic foods are no less likely to develop cancer than women who eat a more conventional diet, according to a study published today.

Using data from the Million Women Study, the biggest health research project in the UK, Cancer Research UK scientists from Oxford University found that eating an organic diet grown without pesticides made no difference to overall cancer risk.

The authors of the paper, published in the British Journal of Cancer, said that the results were “particularly relevant given that health concerns have been identified as the primary motivation for consumers’ purchase of organic food”. Professor Tim Key said: “The overall conclusion is really simple – we don’t see any difference in the total risk of any type of cancer, depending on whether people said they choose organic food. It’s a very large study so the overall result is very robust.”

Originally published in The Guardian by Haroon Siddique on 28 March 2014 (link to original)

Excess weight blamed for eighth of hospital admissions for women over 50

Million Women Study says conditions caused by obesity and excess weight responsible for extra 2m days in hospital a year.

One in eight admissions to hospital of women over 50 are caused by overweight and obesity, according to research that highlights toll our modern lifestyles are taking of the NHS.

The figures come from the biggest health research project in the UK, which found that obesity-related diseases and ill-health in women were responsible for 2m days in hospital a year.

While the researchers the Million Women Study run from University of Oxford have not put a figure on the overall cost, the bill to the taxpayer would amount to an annual sum of well over £500m based on the cost of more than £250 a day for an NHS bed.

Originally published in The Guardian by Sarah Boseley on 15 March 2014 (link to original)

Women with partners have lower risk of dying of heart disease

Oxford study shows living with someone doesn’t stop women developing heart problems but does help them stay alive longer.

Women who are married or live with a partner are less likely to die of heart disease than those who live alone, according to a major study which suggests that the health of women, as well as men, may benefit from living as a couple.

It has been known for some time that being in a long term relationship is good for men’s health, but the impact on women has been unclear. The Million Women Study, based at Oxford University, set out to examine this from its massive database on the health and lifestyle of 1.3 million middle-aged women, recruited between 1996 and 2001 and followed up since. Among its other past achievements, it has identified the main lifestyle factors behind breast cancer.

The researchers, whose new paper is published in the journal BMC Medicine, set out to discover whether being married or living with a partner was as good for women as it is for men. They looked at more than 730,000 women from the study who did not have any previous heart disease, stroke or cancer when they enrolled in the study. Over the next eight or nine years, more than 30,000 of them developed heart disease and 2,000 died from a heart attack or heart failure as a result of coronary heart disease.

Living with a partner or living alone made no difference to whether women developed heart disease. But it did make a difference to their chances of dying from it. Three in every 100 married women with coronary heart disease died, compared with four in every 100 of those who lived alone, whether they were single, divorced or widowed. That amounts to a 28% lower risk for women living in a couple.

Originally published in The Guardian by Sarah Boseley on 12 March 2014 (link to original)

INDOX expansion boosts cancer research across India

Five cancer centres across India are joining the INDOX Cancer Research Network throughout January 2013. INDOX is a partnership between the University of Oxford and leading Indian cancer centres which coordinates research aimed at reducing the death and suffering caused by cancer in India. This expansion of the network brings the total number of Indian partner centres to 12, and was made possible by a grant from Sanofi Oncology as part of their commitment to help build research capacity for Indian cancer centres.

INDOX Director Dr Raghib Ali of the University of Oxford said: ‘We now have centres in all the major regions of India which is important for clinical research in a country of over a billion people. There are large differences in the lifestyle and habits of people in different parts of India as well as genetic variation, and the incidence of different types of cancer also varies by region.’

Originally published on India Education Diary, via India Education Bureau on 1 February 2013 (link to original)

Vegetarians 'cut heart risk by 32%'

Ditching meat and fish in favour of a vegetarian diet can have a dramatic effect on the health of your heart, research suggests. A study of 44,500 people in England and Scotland showed vegetarians were 32% less likely to die or need hospital treatment as a result of heart disease. Differences in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight are thought to be behind the health boost. Scientists at the University of Oxford analysed data from 15,100 vegetarians and 29,400 people who ate meat and fish. Over the course of 11 years, 169 people in the study died from heart disease and 1,066 needed hospital treatment – and they were more likely to have been meat and fish eaters than vegetarians. Dr Francesca Crowe [of Oxford University] said: ‘The main message is that diet is an important determinant of heart health. I’m not advocating that everyone eats a vegetarian diet. The diets are quite different. Vegetarians probably have a lower intake of saturated fat so it makes sense there is a lower risk of heart disease.’

Originally published on BBC News online by James Gallagher on 30 January 2013 (link to original)

Going vegetarian can reduce your risk of heart disease by a THIRD

Vegetarians are a third less likely to need hospital treatment for heart disease or die from it, claim researchers. The largest study of its kind found vegetarians have healthier hearts than those who eat meat or fish. It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels through eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit. The study of almost 45,000 volunteers included a high proportion of vegetarians – 34 per cent – and mostly women, which resulted in ‘clear findings’, said researchers. Co-author Professor Tim Key, deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford, said: ‘The results clearly show the risk of heart disease in vegetarians is about a third lower than in non-vegetarians.’

Originally published in the Daily Mail on 31 January 2013 (link to original)

Active Lifestyle Helps Reduce Chance Of Breast Cancer

An active lifestyle such as doing housework, brisk walking and gardening helps to reduce the chance of getting breast cancer, new research has showed. The research – the largest ever looking at physical activity and breast cancer – is part of ongoing work by the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), a Cancer Research UK co-funded study and one of the biggest studies into the links between diet, lifestyle and cancer. Researchers looked at over 8,000 breast cancer cases in women. They found that the group who were the most physically active were 13% less likely to develop breast cancer compared with those who were physically inactive. Even women who were moderately active had an 8% lower chance of developing breast cancer. Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at the University of Oxford who works on the study, said: “This large study further highlights the benefits of being active – even moderate amounts.”

Originally published on The Huffington Post on 5 September 2012 (link to original)

Mothers who breastfeed are slimmer into their 50s

Researchers from Oxford University calculated that if every mother in Britain breastfed for six months then there would be 10,000 fewer obesity related deaths, from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, over ten years.

A study of 740,000 post-menopausal UK women, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that both childbearing and breastfeeding had significant, but opposite, effects on long-term weight.

The more children a woman had, the higher her BMI decades later. However, the average BMI was significantly lower in women who breastfed than in those who had not, regardless of how many children they had.

For every six months women had breastfed, their BMI was 1% lower, even after accounting for other factors known to affect to obesity such as smoking, exercise and social deprivation.

Professor Dame Valerie Beral, Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and study co-author, said:

“Our research suggests that just six months of breastfeeding by UK women could reduce their risk of obesity in later life. A one per cent reduction in BMI may seem small, but spread across the population of the UK that could mean about 10,000 fewer premature deaths per decade from obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.”

Originally published on The Telegraph online by Rebecca Smith on 10 July 2012 (link to original)

Night shifts raise risk of breast cancer, says Danish research

The Health and Safety Executive has commissioned research into reported links between working night shifts and breast cancer in women in an attempt to establish whether working at night increases the risk of chronic disease. The HSE has asked the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University to investigate the disruption caused to people’s body clocks by lifestyle and working patterns. It describes the work as complex and challenging.

Originally published on Guardian online by James Meikle on 28 May 2012 (link to original)

BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year awarded to Dr Alexander Finlayson

Dr Alexander Finlayson was presented with the BMJ Junior Doctor of the Year award at a ceremony this week. The Junior Doctor of the Year award acknowledges the doctor in training who has most notably contributed to medicine or healthcare, and significantly impacted on the wellbeing of the wider community.

Alexander has worked across clinical medicine (Outstanding Commitment to Foundation Programme Award), training (Chairman of the Oxford Deanery Trainees Committee – representing the views of training in the Oxford Deanery), Academia (winning a Kennedy scholarship to Harvard, research for the Mayo Clinic, and Oxford University Academic Clinical Fellow, publishing a book and several peer reviewed papers), Alexander’s most notable achievement has been to establish MedicineAfrica, a programme offering medical students and graduating doctors in Somaliland the opportunity to receive weekly live case based education in small groups from faculties across the UK with follow up mentoring. This project is now being developed in Palestine, Tanzania and Ghana.

Originally published on the BMJ Group website on 28 May 2012 (link to original)