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Approved Research

Risk factors and biomarkers for the development and early diagnosis of breast and gynaecological cancers.

Principal Investigator: Dr Una McMenamin
Approved Research ID: 78846
Approval date: November 11th 2021

Lay summary

Our aims are to explore:

  1. Factors associated with breast and gynaecological (specifically endometrial, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancer) cancer incidence
  2. Clinical factors and biomarkers that may assist in the early diagnosis of breast and gynaecological cancers

Specifically, we aim to investigate:

(1) Risk factors for breast and gynaecological cancers including diet, lifestyle, obesity, reproductive factors, medications, gene variants, and biomarkers (e.g. sex hormones, vitamin D, lipid levels)

(2) Risk factors for breast and gynaecological cancers stratified by genetic factors and/or levels of circulating biomarkers

(3) Whether baseline levels of certain blood markers e.g. CRP and apolipoproteins, are associated with early diagnosis of breast and gynaecological cancers

Linkage between UK Biobank and cancer registries will provide information on cohort members diagnosed with breast and gynaecological cancers. Using appropriate statistical techniques, we will compare cohort members who have developed breast cancer and each of the gynaecological cancers with those who have not developed these cancers, examining questionnaire and interview data (diet, physical activity etc.), physical measures (e.g. body size measures), hospital admission data, primary care data, genetic data and relevant biomarkers from the panel of blood/urinary markers undertaken on all cohort members. Only female participants will be included in all analyses.

The proposed research will further elucidate the aetiology of breast and gynaecological cancers and may provide novel opportunities for their prevention.  In particular, the large size of the UK Biobank will facilitate the exploration of risk factors according to cancer subtypes, which could lead to better tailoring of future preventative strategies, particularly for those at high-risk of developing these cancers. Ovarian cancer, as well as certain sub-types of breast and endometrial cancer, frequently present at late stage and have poor survival rates.  Biomarkers for early diagnosis of these cancers may be identified, which could translate to improved survival.