EPIC-Oxford is the Oxford component of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). The study began in the 1990s and follows the health of 65,000 men and women living throughout the UK, many of whom are vegetarian. The main objective of EPIC Oxford is to examine how diet influences the risk of cancer, particularly for the most common types of cancer in Britain, as well as the risks of other chronic diseases.
EPIC-Europe was initiated in 1992. It involves over 500,000 people in 10 European countries. It is coordinated by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, and supported by the European Union and national funding agencies.
EPIC-Oxford is one of two EPIC cohorts in the UK, the other is EPIC-Norfolk. (A “cohort” is a large group of people who have joined a study and whose health is being followed.) The EPIC-Oxford cohort was recruited between 1993 and 1999. The strategy for establishing the EPIC-Oxford cohort was to recruit participants with a wide range of diets by targeting vegetarians and vegans as well as participants from the general UK population. As such EPIC-Oxford is of great scientific value to the EPIC-Europe study as a whole, because the diets of vegetarians, and especially vegans, differ substantially from those of meat-eaters and this range in diets makes it easier to detect relationships between nutrition and health.
EPIC-Oxford is managed by the Steering Committee, comprising Professor Tim Key, Professor Ruth Travis and Dr Tammy Tong. To date, research in EPIC-Oxford has focused on the associations of diet, especially vegetarian diets, with the risks of cancer, ischaemic heart disease, other chronic diseases and mortality, as well as studies of the associations of diet with blood levels of nutrients, hormones, cholesterol and other biomarkers.
The EPIC-Oxford study has published many important research papers and becomes more valuable for understanding the long-term effects of diet on health as time goes on. The continued support of participants in this study is vital for its continuing success.