Concept and project objectives

  1. To determine the important common genetic variants that underlie breast, ovarian and prostate cancer risk, and to estimate their effects on risk, individually and in combination.
  2. To assess interaction between genetic loci and known or suspected environmental/lifestyle risk factors, i.e. to examine whether environmental/lifestyle risk factors modify genetic susceptibility to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
  3. To assess whether the association between genetic factors, environmental/lifestyle risk factors and cancer risk is stronger for certain tumour subtypes, and affect clinical outcome.
  4. To develop comprehensive risk models including genetic and environmental/lifestyle factors for these cancers, to allow the prediction of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer among individuals in the population at large.
  5. To investigate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of using these risk models in prevention strategies, and the associated organisational, ethical, legal and social implications.

Approximately 440,000 cases and 190,000 deaths from breast, ovarian and prostate cancer occurs annually in Europe. The cancers share an underlying aetiology related to sex steroid hormones, and some common inherited susceptibility, such that it is natural to study these diseases together (1). Breast and prostate cancer have shown an increasing secular trend, indicating that lifestyle is an important determinant of disease risk (2). Notwithstanding the importance of hormonal factors, no large underlying causes have been identified for these cancers, although several important risk factors are known. There is little evidence of infectious aetiology for these cancers.

A recently published report from the World Cancer Research Fund indicated that few specific dietary factors play an important role for cancers of the breast, ovary and prostate (3). It is today not possible to determine the individual risk of cancer. Numerous studies have identified factors that affect the risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer but risk estimates have so far only been calculated on an aggregated group level. Little is known of the genetic predisposition needed to develop cancer. Even less is known about how lifestyle factors modify the effect of inherited genetic alterations.

Additional information