New project to assess the methods used to calculate cancer prevention estimates

We are funding a research project at the Harvard School of Public Health which will get underway this September.

24 August 2018

Estimates can be made for the number of cancer cases that are preventable in a population due to modifiable lifestyle factors (such as diet and physical activity). In theory these cases can be prevented if lifestyles are optimised to minimise risk. These estimates are made based on the proportion of cancers that are attributable to modifiable exposures and are called the population attributable risk (PAR). And now, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) are funding a project which will review the methods used to calculate these estimates and enable them to be standardised across cancer prevention research.

While PARs have become widely used, the estimates for preventability have ranged widely, especially for diet-related factors. This variability is due to differences in assessing the relevant factors and different sources of data used, as well as the inherent complexity of diet as an exposure. This research project aims to understand these influences so as to strengthen methods and make the resulting estimates more consistent.

Once the factors influencing variability in PAR estimates are better understood, these refined methods can become the gold standard across many studies. Preventability estimates can be of enormous use to individuals, medical and health professionals and governments for planning purposes. For example, they can inform how medical and research resources are devoted to cancer prevention, therefore obtaining the best and most accurate estimates is critical.

See what other research projects we are funding.