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Approved research

Physical Activity and Anthropometric Risk Factors for the Development of Cancer in the UK Biobank

Principal Investigator: Dr Charles Matthews
Approved Research ID: 44681
Approval date: February 4th 2019

Lay summary

Our research project aims to understand how physical activity and obesity influence future risk of cancer. Previous work has shown that obesity and activity levels can affect your chances of developing cancer, but how these risk factors work to influence disease risk is not well understood. While we assume that the link with obesity and cancer is due to increased levels of fat, those assumptions are largely based on body mass index, which is a ratio of height to weight and not actual amount of fat. We can use direct measurements of fat mass in the UK Biobank to address whether fat content is really driving the link between obesity and cancer. Additionally, few studies until the UK Biobank have recruited enough people with information on their activity levels, including activity and inactivity, to fully understand how they influence risk of future cancer. Each of these factors have been shown to be associated with inflammation, which can also influence risk of cancer. Our study can provide details about the biology through which these factors may influence disease risk by measuring levels of white blood cells as a proxy for inflammation. This can tell us if inflammation may be the reason these factors influence cancer risk. Our project would be able to address these questions within three years. The public health impact would be large for multiple groups of people including at-risk individuals, clinicians, and researchers. We can provide at risk-individuals a modality in which they can decrease their personal risk of developing future cancer. Secondly, we can provide clinicians the ability to assess at-risk individuals and provide them with potential strategies to mitigate their patient's future cancer risk. Lastly, this work can serve as foundation for future work for researchers aimed at developing intervention strategies harnessing the effects of physical activity and obesity on cancer risk to prevent the occurrence of future disease.