AC DBE FRS FRCOG MRCP
28 July 1946 |
|Known for||Breast cancer epidemiology|
|Spouse||Professor Paul Fine|
Dame Valerie Beral AC DBE FRS FRCOG (born 1946) is an Australian-born British epidemiologist, academic and a preeminent specialist in breast cancer epidemiology. She is Professor of Epidemiology, a Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford and has been the Head of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford and Cancer Research UK since 1989.
Education and training
She then spent six months travelling the "hippie trail" through Asia of which she said "That taught me how much I wanted to work. But I still wanted to leave Australia." She then travelled to England and successfully applied for a job at the Hammersmith Hospital.
At Hammersmith Hospital, worked under Charles Fletcher, who recognised that she was suited to epidemiology and so propelled her towards the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. There she completed a combined course in Epidemiology & Statistics in 1971–1972 under the tutorship of Donald Reid. Beral felt very comfortable with the move because she had never felt happy in clinical medicine. She says that "she had never been able to understand how her peers could be so certain about making decisions on incomplete evidence. Epidemiology has offered her not an escape from that uncertainty, but the opportunity to tackle it head on." She also became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.
One of Beral's first interests as a professional epidemiologist was the combined oral contraceptive pill because of work she had previously done in family planning. She felt that epidemiology would give her the tools to begin to answer the questions that people had asked her about safety of the pill. Although Beral has moved on to other projects, this is still one area in which the data have yet to provide support for her initial instinct that the contraceptive pill, like pregnancy, will eventually be shown to protect against breast cancer. Later work included the effects of radiation, breast cancer trials and screening, AIDS, gene therapy, Hiroshima survivors, Chernobyl, food toxins, and much else. The British Medical Journal described her tally of jobs, publications, and committees as reading "like a checklist of the epidemiological causes célebres of the past three decades".
Beral completed her training in 1972 and began working for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for a number of years. From there she moved to direct the Cancer Research UK Cancer Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford in 1989. Beral said of being offered the role: "One of the major deterrents when I was offered the ICRF job in 1989 was the thought of being so much in the public eye. It's not my nature."
Beral has served on various international committees for the World Health Organisation and the United States National Academy of Sciences. She also chairs the Department of Health's Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer Screening.
Million Women Study
Beral was one of the leaders of the Million Women Study which was opened in 1997, and has recruited more than 1.3 million UK women over 50 via the NHS breast screening centres. The study is investigating how a woman’s reproductive history can affect her health, with a particular focus on the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It is the largest such study in the world with one in four of UK women in the target age group participating.
In August 2003, Beral’s group published results showing that taking HRT increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer with an estimated 20,000 UK women aged 50–64 having possibly developed the disease between 1993 and 2003 due to HRT use. The study also showed that risk increases the longer a woman uses HRT, but drops to the normal level within five years after stopping use.
Honours and awards
- Donald Reid Medal – in 2006 Beral was recognised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for her ground-breaking work in cancer epidemiology and women’s health, most notably through the Million Women study, as well as her earlier contributions to the School.
- Honorary Fellow, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2000.
- Honorary MD, University of Aberdeen, 2005
- Honorary Fellow, Faculty of Public Health Medicine, University of Aberdeen, 2000.
- Fellow of the Royal Society – for scientific contributions to epidemiology.
- Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.
- Companion of the Order of Australia in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List "for eminent service to medicine and women's health through significant advances in cancer research and epidemiology, through seminal contributions to public health policy and as a mentor to young scientists." 
Beral's work is based in Oxford where she has a flat. She also spends time in her house in north London, shared with her American partner, Paul Fine, who works at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has two sons, Stephen and Richard. She maintains close links with her native Australia but "could not imagine returning to live there". Aside from concerns that Australia would hold little for her partner, Beral has also joked that "The population's too small!" to satisfy her needs as an epidemiologist.
- "BERAL, Dame Valerie". Who's Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc; online edn, Oxford University Press. 2013.
- Peto, R.; Boreham, J.; Clarke, M.; Davies, C.; Beral, V. (2000). "UK and USA breast cancer deaths down 25% in year 2000 at ages 20–69 years". The Lancet 355 (9217): 1822. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02277-7.
- "Jim Al-Khalili talks to breast cancer pioneer Valerie Beral about her Million Women study and why she thinks a so-called 'vaccine' should be developed to prevent breast cancer".
- "Valerie Beral". Life Scientific. 2 Feb 2013. BBC Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qdw1k. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- List of publications from Microsoft Academic Search
- Science Watch, Valerie Beral hunts for the causative agent of Kaposi's Sarcoma, Nov/Dec 1991
- Beral, V. (2000). "Of pills and ills". BMJ 321 (7268): 1042–1041. doi:10.1136/bmj.321.7268.1042. PMC 1118846. PMID 11053172.
- Beral, V.; Million Women Study, C.; Reeves, G.; Bull, D. (2003). "Breast cancer and hormone-replacement therapy in the Million Women Study". Lancet 362 (9382): 419–427. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14596-5. PMID 12927427.
- Reeves, G. K.; Pirie, K.; Beral, V.; Green, J.; Spencer, E.; Bull, D.; Million Women Study, C. (2007). "Cancer incidence and mortality in relation to body mass index in the Million Women Study: Cohort study". BMJ 335 (7630): 1134. doi:10.1136/bmj.39367.495995.AE. PMC 2099519. PMID 17986716.
- Beral, V.; Banks, E.; Reeves, G. (2002). "Evidence from randomised trials on the long-term effects of hormone replacement therapy". The Lancet 360 (9337): 942–944. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)11032-4. PMID 12354487.
- Cancer Research UK
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2009.
- Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), Its an Honour, 14 June 2010