Search for cancer study volunteers

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(First Edition)

THE WORLD'S largest investigation into the connection between cancer and diet will today begin with a search for 250,000 people to study over the next 10 years, writes James Cusick.

The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (Epic) is being co-ordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France and will initially investigate breast and bowel cancer.

General practitioners in Scotland will begin the recruitment that will, by the summer, have extended to the rest of the United Kingdom and involve seven European countries, including France, Germany, Greece and Italy.

Professor Nicholas Wright, director of clinical research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), who yesterday launched the UK side of Epic in Glasgow, said: 'This study will provide definite information on the relationships between what we eat and our risk of getting cancer.'

The recruitment phase, involving the Royal College of General Practitioners and the ICRF, will cost pounds 1.25m. A quarter of the study is being funded by the European Community.

Dr Tim Key, of the ICRF's epidemiology unit in Oxford, estimates that dietary changes could prevent up to 35 per cent of the 15,000 annual cancer deaths in Scotland. He said better information was needed 'to show which foods are beneficial and which harmful'.

Epic will also evaluate Hormone Replacement Therapy to help establish if it alters the risk of breast cancer, and endometrial cancer in the membrane of uterus.