How can genomics help us understand the hidden causes of cancer

MedicalBackground_samarttiwWe are well used to hearing about new large-scale cancer genomics studies, and how they might provide insights into new treatments for cancer, although what is often of more interest to those of us at EPICentre is how genomics can help unravel the causes of cancer, in particular for those cancers for which traditional epidemiology studies have only had limited success. For example, we know some of the causes of renal, pancreatic and colorectal cancer, although these cannot explain the large international differences that are seen with incidence, implying that much more remains to be discovered. Similarly, we know almost nothing about lifestyle causes of prostate cancer, even though the differences in incidence rates between populations are among the highest seen for any cancer.

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Reproductive factors may influence women’s long-term health

LittleHands_JunAviles

In a new study published today in BMC Medicine we examined how reproductive factors influenced the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in >300,000 European women that participated in the EPIC study.

A woman’s reproductive characteristics are not always thought of in terms of how they may influence her long-term health but in our recent study we found a link between several reproductive factors and risk of mortality. For example, the risk of all-cause mortality was lower for women who had children versus never had children, those who had ever versus never breastfed, women that had used versus never used oral contraceptives (non-smokers only) and those who experienced their first menstrual period (menarche) at an older age. Read more ›

EPIC publication highlights

EPIC colleagues have been hard at work again! Here is a collection of manuscripts that have been published in the last couple of months.

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Does urine hold the key to a pancreatic cancer test?

CancerCells by dream designsFor a variety of reasons, including a lack of tests to detect pancreatic cancer in its early treatable forms and the poor performance of current treatments, pancreatic cancer has one of the poorest survival of all cancers – sadly, with many patients dying within months of diagnosis. Thus, the search for new tests to identify pancreatic cancer in its early stages is a top priority in cancer research.

Just this week (1), researchers from Barts Cancer Institute in London report that a signature of three proteins measured in urine samples are able to identify early, less aggressive pancreatic cancers and distinguish them from normal healthy individuals, and individuals with chronic pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition of the pancreas often confused with pancreatic cancer (and which itself increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer) (2).

This important study is indeed exciting and suggests that we are getting closer to the day when we will be able to identify these cancers in their early stages, and treat them, saving tens of thousands of lives. Read more ›

How many spoons of sugar should we have daily?

Sugar_MoyanBrennWe all love a bit of sugar, it tastes deliciously sweet. However too much sugar can lead to adverse health problems, and not to mention an expanding waistline. Knowing how much sugar we can have in our diet is important.

The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises the British government, has produced new recommendations on carbohydrate intakes.

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