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This is an exciting opportunity for a postgraduate student to contribute to the evidence on potentially modifiable risk factors for cancer, through epidemiological studies, working with the Key/Travis Group in the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health.

This DPhil project is on the epidemiology of cancer, with focus on the role of biochemical, molecular and lifestyle factors in the development of the disease, and the mechanisms involved. The exact project will be shaped by the student with the supervisors, but the Group’s work focuses on prospective investigations of risk factors for cancer, particularly cancers of the prostate, breast and colorectum but also on rarer cancers, and centres on large scale prospective studies and international consortia.

The DPhil project will potentially use data and biological samples from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a European cohort of approximately 500,000 individuals, recruited in 1993-2000 in ten countries in Europe, with extensive genetic and phenotypic data, including data from biochemical assays from blood samples (including proteomic, metabolomic, and nutritional biomarker hormone measurements), and over 3 million person years of follow-up ( The research will also make use of the UK Biobank resource, a cohort of 500,000 people recruited in 2006-2010 from across Britain, with baseline and follow-up data on lifestyle, anthropometric and other personal characteristics, as well as information on biochemical and genetic factors. Data are also available from large international consortia, including the Endogenous Hormones, Nutritional Biomarkers and Prostate Cancer Collaborative Group (EHNBPCCG) and the PRACTICAL consortium, an international genetics consortium, to conduct research on biomarker and genetic risk factors for cancer and Mendelian randomisation studies.

The student will review the literature and the data available and then define a set of hypotheses to investigate through their DPhil research. The research may involve a range of methodological techniques including prospective cohort, nested case-control and cross-sectional analyses, the analysis of biomarker and questionnaire data, and the incorporation of genetic data in epidemiological analyses. The student may conduct Mendelian randomization analyses of selected risk factors and biomarkers in relation to cancer risk. 


This project will provide the successful applicant with excellent training in large scale cancer and molecular epidemiology and the statistical analysis of prospective and cross-sectional data. It will provide opportunities to network with other investigators both locally and with international collaborators. The student will receive training in conducting literature reviews and writing academic papers for peer-reviewed journals and will work closely with a strong interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in epidemiology, cancer, biomarker and molecular epidemiology, statistics, Mendelian randomisation.


It is anticipated that the student will make research visits to our collaborators, including EPIC collaborators at the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France. 

prospective candidate

This project will suit someone with an interest in molecular epidemiology and the aetiology of cancer, who is looking to expand their skills and experience in epidemiological study design, the statistical analysis of biomarker, molecular, lifestyle and other epidemiological data and Mendelian randomisation analyses.

Candidates should have a strong background in a biomedical, life sciences or statistical discipline. Previous postgraduate training or experience in epidemiology and/or medical statistics is preferred.


  • Ruth Travis
    Ruth Travis

    Professor of Epidemiology, Senior Molecular Epidemiologist, and Deputy Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit

  • Tim Key
    Tim Key

    Professor of Epidemiology