The Centre for Research into Cancer Prevention and Screening (CRiPS), based in the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing at Dundee, will look at factors ranging from how to increase the uptake of cancer screening to encouraging people to change their diet and lifestyle.
Cancer continues to be a major global health problem with around 11 million people diagnosed and almost 8 million people dying every year, but there is an increasing body of evidence that many cases could be prevented or treated early enough to avoid fatality.
It is estimated that around one third of all cancer cases could be avoided if nobody was exposed to tobacco. Diet, physical activity and other environmental factors have also been shown as key factors in the development of the disease - recent preventability estimates suggest that 42% of breast cancer and 43% of colorectal cancer could be avoided with changes in body fatness, alcohol and physical activity (and in the case of colorectal cancer increase in dietary fibre and decreases in red and processed meat).
“We now know many of the risk factors which contribute to cancer – things like smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity all can play a part,” said Professor Annie Anderson. “But increasing knowledge about the relationship between risk factors and cancer will not in itself reduce the disease, and we have to do more to get people to take on board the message and do something about it.
“We can stop many cancers from occurring but it requires a massive effort across society. What we are aiming to do through the Centre is make a concerted effort to find ways of making it easier to make those changes.
“Research is urgently needed to identify practical ways to decrease cancer risk through improved action on diet and physical activity, increasing the rates of screening and the early diagnosis of cancer at treatable stages, and environmental approaches that will facilitate changes in lifestyle by vulnerable groups.”
The Centre draws together expertise across the medical spectrum, from public health and nutrition to surgery, nursing and screening. It will work in association with the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and collaborators across Scotland.
“We have a lot of excellent expertise in Dundee, and in a wider sense across Scotland, that is applicable in this area and by drawing all of that together we can make a bigger impact,” said Professor Anderson.
Professor Robert Steele, Director of the Bowel Screening Research Unit at Dundee, said that bringing together different elements of cancer screening and prevention together could have significant benefits.
“Screening can be a highly effective method of reducing cancer-specific death rates, and in Scotland we have screening programmes for cervical, breast and colorectal cancer,” said Professor Steele.
“While research into more sensitive and specific tests is essential, an equally important current issue is improving uptake, which is presently sub-optimal.
“Screening also provides communication opportunities to deliver lifestyle interventions, and this can be seen as added value to a screening programme. CRiPS is intent on improving the cancer screening processes, particularly in the areas of test and uptake enhancement. In addition we are committed to exploring ways in which screening and prevention can be effectively linked.”