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Excess adiposity, defined by body mass index (BMI), is a well-established risk factor for some types of common cancers.  However, there are limitations to using BMI in assessing adiposity including its inability to assess fat distribution or discriminate body composition (fat and fat-free mass), which may vary considerably even among individuals with similar BMI. This project will explore different measures of adiposity and body fat distribution in relation to risk of cancer using a range of detailed anthropometric measures in the UK Biobank cohort study. This study recruited 500,000 adults from the general population in the UK during 2006-2010, and included extensive data collection on lifestyle (e.g. smoking, physical activity) and physical measurements (e.g. blood pressure, anthropometry, and spirometry). An imaging sub-study of 100,000 participants is on-going and includes dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [DEXA] and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that provide more detailed measures of body fat and fat distribution.

The specific DPhil project will be subject to further discussion and personal interest, but may include comparing traditional anthropometric measures with that from imaging scans across the population and prospective analyses of the relation between adiposity, body fat distribution and risk of cancer.


The student will work within a multi-disciplinary team and will gain research experience in literature review, planning and conducting a research study, epidemiological and statistical methodology, programming and data analysis. Regular research meetings and workshops will be held which the candidate will be expected to attend and to present research findings.


The project will provide a range of training opportunities in statistical analysis and interpretation and statistical programming. By the end of the DPhil, it is expected that you will be competent to plan, undertake and interpret statistical analysis of large-scale epidemiological data, and to report your findings. The project will be based in CTSU, Nuffield Department of Population Health, which has excellent facilities and a world-class community of statistical and clinical scientists. 


Candidates should have a strong background in a mathematical or biomedical discipline and postgraduate training in epidemiology, statistics or public health. The project will involve large-scale data and statistical analyses. Candidates should therefore have an interest and aptitude in extending these skills as well as a strong interest in non-communicable disease epidemiology.