Nutrition & cancer research findings

Our researchers have investigated how specific nutrients, nutritional status and metabolic factors are linked to cancer

Below are the results from some of the research we have funded.

Evaluating the protective effect of folate against lung cancer in a large European prospective study

Paul Brennan, at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, looked at whether levels of B‐vitamins circulating in blood are related to the risk of developing lung cancer.

The grant found that blood concentrations of vitamin B6 and methionine were substantially lower in lung cancer cases than in the control group. The results indicate that increasing levels of both vitamin B6 and methionine protects against lung cancer.

Plasma carotenoids, retinol, tocopherols, and vitamin C and risk of colorectal cancer within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)

H. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, at Univeristy Medical Centre Utrecht, examined the association between antioxidant levels in blood and colorectal cancer risk.

The research found an association between higher blood levels of vitamin A and a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer, particular of those cancers originating in the large intestine. Higher levels of vitamin A precursors (α- and β-carotene) were also associated with a lower risk of cancer in the large intestine but, surprisingly, higher levels of α-carotene were associated with an increased risk of cancers originating in the rectum

Me-Can - collaborative study on metabolic syndrome and cancer

Par Stattin, at Umea University in Sweden, conducted research that explored whether those with high BMI, blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides had a higher risk of cancer and cancer death.

The first research grant awarded to the Me-Can study found high levels of glucose were associated with an increased risk of cancer and cancer death independently of obesity and overweight. A second research grant for this study found that men and women with high levels of blood pressure, glucose, triglycerides and height had a higher risk of cancer overall, with a specific increased risk of cancer in the ovary, liver, brain, thyroid, endometrium, postmenopausal breast, gynaecological, pancreas, colon/rectum, bladder, cervix, skin, blood, gastric, kidney, esophagus and gallbladder. An association was found between high levels of these factors and prostate cancer death, but not prostate cancer incidence.

Vitamin D and bladder cancer risk, recurrence and progression

Nuria Malats, at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, investigated whether having low levels of serum 25(OH)D (the best marker of vitamin D) would increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.

This research found that individuals who had a low serum 25(OH)D level had almost double the risk of developing bladder cancer. This association was higher for a more aggressive, muscle invasive, bladder cancer type. It was also found that bladder cancer tumour patients with higher levels of 25(OH)D were less likely to progress.

Role of obesity and thyroid hormones in the aetiology of differentiated thyroid carcinomas

Dr Sabina Rinaldi, at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, explored the association between thyroid cancer risk and body size and thyroid hormone concentration.

The research found a significant link between thyroid cancer and body mass index, height, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio in women; and leg length and thyroid cancer in men. In both genders higher levels of a thyroid hormone known as thyroglobulin, and lower levels of thyrotropin, were associated with increased thyroid cancer risk; however, neither marker was accurate enough to be used as a screening test.