General cancer funded research findings

Below is a short summary of the results of our general cancer research from recent years.

For more details on these and all World Cancer Research Fund network funded research, please visit WCRF International’s website.

Dr Ashley Cooper, at University of Bristol, investigated whether there is an association between the physical environment and children’s physical activity.

This grant found children who spend more time outdoors, use a physically active form of travel to school, and those who have greater independent mobility (being allowed to go to places without an adult) are more physically active.

Professor Peter Farmer, at University of Leicester, looked at whether there is a correlation between the dietary intake of acrylamide and the extent of acrylamide-induced DNA damage.
The grant found acrylamide-induced adducts are present in human DNA, but further improvements in instrumental sensitivity is needed to assess the extent of this damage associated with human dietary intake of acrylamide.

Professor David Gunnell, at University of Bristol, looked at associations between adult cancer risk and childhood height, along with leg, foot and trunk length.

The grant found cancer risk is increased in larger children, but an opposite association was found for cardiovascular disease. The grant therefore concluded that we should not intervene to reduce childhood growth but that these measurements are useful tools in the exploring childhood circumstances, particularly diet, and in identifying important periods of growth in terms of later disease risk.

Professor Chris Elliott and his team at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a low cost novel method to extract substances known as heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCA), produced during the cooking go protein-rich foods, from blood samples. This new method will be useful in the development of biomarkers of HCAs, which are in turn needed to be able to study their role in cancer development.

A study on whether a high intake of fruit and vegetables helped reduce the effect on the enzyme responsible for activating possible carcinogens found in well-cooked meats, led by Associate Professor Susan Kadlubar, of University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Researchers found that none of the diets or drinks had a significant impact on the enzyme responsible for producing these potentially toxic components.

Research that looked at the effects of fruit and vegetable consumption on changes in body weight of 14,000 35-69 year old women over a 10 year period, by Dr Victoria Burley of University of Leeds. The study found that though women tend to gain weight as they age, those who increased their intake of fruit and vegetables the most gained the least weight.

A study of more than 600,000 people on the potential links between metabolic syndrome and various cancers by Professor Pär Stattin, of Umea University. The study found that metabolic risk factors are associated with an increased risk of many cancers, though the effects are generally small. Their findings provide further evidence that a healthy lifestyle not only decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes but also lowers the risk for cancer.

Researchers tracked a group of children’s activity levels to collect information on their physical activity and eating behaviour in a study by Professor Ashley Cooper of Bristol University. This study showed that time outdoors is a deciding factor for young people’s physical activity.

A study that looked at the future cancer risk on the caffeine intake of mothers and the presence of DNA abnormalities in the foetus, led by Associate Professor Marcus Cooke at University of Leicester. The grant specifically examined whether it was feasible to extract DNA from small fetal blood samples and to analyse it for strand breaks. They were able to develop a methodology to carry out the extraction, which they plan to use in the future.

An investigation into the attitudes and behaviour to food of Chinese cancer patients, general public and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors by Professor Joseph Lau of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Researchers found that cancer survivors believed avoiding certain foods would help their prognosis and decreased their overall fat and protein intake. TCM practitioners and the public shared many of these beliefs. Patients and the public also believed that reducing the intake of nutritious food and the overall amount of food would help the cancer prognosis.

Research into the effects of folate intake by mothers on fetal development by Professor William Farrell of Keele University. They discovered folic acid could affect some genes by changing ‘markers’ associated with birth weight.

An assessment of whether a school-based health promotion programme could prevent excess weight gain in children from socially deprived backgrounds by Professor Carolyn Summerbell from Durham University. The study found that while children enjoyed the programme, it was difficult to engage with their families.

A study to examine whether a diet high in energy density and fat, and low in fibre, is associated with body fatness in children aged between seven and 15 years, led by Dr Susan Jebb of Cambridge University. The study found that in a childhood a diet high in energy density and fat, and low in fibre, increases the risk of excess fatness in adolescence.

A study of the relationship between dietary patterns and changes in body fatness and lean mass in children, led by Dr Kate Northstone of Bristol University. The study results suggested that an unhealthy diet, associated with high fat, sugary and salty foods, in childhood is linked to increasing fat mass in adolescents.

A study on the effects of adherence to WCRF/ AICR’s Cancer Prevention Recommendationsby Dr Teresa Norat of Imperial College London. The results showed a strong link between following the Recommendations and a reduced risk of dying from cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases.

This project looked at a way of developing a methodology to measure the effect a potentially cancer-causing chemical acrylamide – produced from some carbohydrate-rich foods cooked at high temperatures – has on human DNA. The study was led by Professor Peter Farmer, of Leicester University. A new method was developed, but is not sensitive enough to detect the acrylamide binding to DNA.

A research project to develop a methodology using human hair to detect a possible cancer-causing agent found in cooked meats, which could then act as a biomarker, by Professor Loic Le Merchand  of University of Hawaii Cancer Centre. Study found that PhIP hair levels could serve as a biomarker in epidemiological studies investigating the link between the agent, cooked meat and cancer risk. Further work is pending.