Despite improvements in survival in recent decades, cancer remains a major cause of death. The most common types of cancer in males are lung cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and stomach cancer, and in females, are breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and cervical cancer.
In 1951 the landmark study of British Doctors showed the association between smoking and lung cancer for the first time and we continue to work to understand the causes and evaluate effective ways to prevent and treat cancer.
The Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU) has conducted randomised trials in the treatment of childhood and adult leukaemia which contributed to the significant improvements in patient survival, and has carried out population based studies of the risk of cancer associated with environmental radon exposure. Our research into the benefits and hazards of common treatments for cancer found a small, but significant increase in the risk of heart disease in cancer patients who received radiotherapy. This finding led to a change in treatment guidelines.
The ATLAS trial demonstrated the benefits of treating women with breast cancer for longer with tamoxifen and contributed to improved survival rates in developed countries. Since the 1980s we have worked with breast cancer trialists around the world. The Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) meta-analyses provide a definitive summary of the randomised evidence about the long-term outcomes of treatments for women with early breast cancer and continue to influence treatment guidelines.
Previous trials have suggested that aspirin may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and perhaps other cancers. The ASCEND trial explored the effects of aspirin and of omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils) on cancer in 15,500 people with diabetes who had no known vascular disease or recent cancer when they started the trial. Participants have taken aspirin for approximately seven years and will be followed indefinitely through health record linkage.The results of the ASCEND trial were announced in August 2018.