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October 22, 2010 | 2 minute read

Diet and Cancer: What the Big Population Studies are Saying

Today’s (early) morning session of the AICR Research Conference featured a lot of interesting charts and graphs illustrating how major population studies are helping us understand the link between diet and cancer risk. The two prominent speakers – Dr. Teresa Norat at Imperial College London and Dr. Laurence N. Kolonel of the University of Hawaii – talked about cohort studies and what they are telling us.

In cohort studies, researchers follow a (large) group of healthy people and link it with certain risk factors. The two major cohorts Dr. Norat and Dr. Kolonel discussed ask the study population lots of questions about their diets repeatedly, take blood and other biological samples, and then follow their cancer incidence in the coming years.

Both cohorts feature diverse populations in different ways. Dr. Norat spoke about The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, a cohort that includes 10 European countries and over half a million people. Dr. Kolonel’s cohort includes over 200,000 participants of five ethnicities living in Hawaii and Los Angeles.

As the researchers pointed out, the diverse populations allows them to see confirmations among certain risk factors – such as high intake of soy compound with decreased prostate cancer risk – and look for unique differences among populations.

These cohort studies, among many others, provide the evidence for which diet/lifestyle factors link to what cancers, and that’s where Dr. Norat’s work on AICR/WCRF’s Continuous Update Project enters the picture. The project is a follow-up to AICR/WCRF’s second expert report, and Dr. Norat is leading the project. Last year, the Continuous Update Project released an update on the report’s findings on breast cancer. Colon and prostate cancer are in the works, along with an analysis of the findngs on breast cancer survivorship.

You can read more about the project here and look for updates here on our blog.

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