European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition

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The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study is a Europe-wide prospective cohort study of the relationships between diet and cancer, as well as other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. With over half a million participants, it is the largest study of diet and disease to be undertaken.[1]

EPIC is coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, and funded by the "Europe Against Cancer" programme of the European Commission as well as multiple nation-specific grants and charities.

521,457 healthy adults, mostly aged 35–70 years, were enrolled in 23 centres in ten European countries: Denmark (11%), France (14%), Germany (10%), Greece (5%), Italy (9%), The Netherlands (8%), Norway (7%), Spain (8%), Sweden (10%) and the United Kingdom (17%). One UK centre (Oxford) recruited 27,000 vegetarians and vegans; this subgroup forms the largest study of this dietary group. Recruitment to the study took place between 1993 and 1999, and follow-up is planned for at least ten years, with repeat interview/questionnaires every three to five years. The main prospective data collected are standardised dietary questionnaires (self-administered or interview-based), seven-day food diaries, blood samples and anthropometric measurements, such as body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio. Additionally, the GenAir case-control study is studying the relationship of passive smoking and air pollution with cancers and respiratory diseases.

Up to 2004, there were over 26,000 new cases of cancer recorded among participants, with the most common being cancers of the breast, colorectum, prostate and lung. Current analyses are focusing particularly on stomach, colorectal, breast, prostate and lung cancers. The different dietary patterns in the different countries should enable reliable associations to be made between particular diets and cancers. The analysis of stored blood samples should also allow dissection of genetic factors involved in cancers, as well as the effects of hormones and hormone-like factors.

Key findings[edit]

The study and its analysis is ongoing, but key results of the study retrieved in 2008 are:

  • Lowered sodium from salt intake, high potassium from fruit and vegetable consumption promote healthy blood pressure levels
  • High physical activity, involving some high impact activities is a good indicator of longevity and low risk of bone fractures
  • High dietary fibre protects against bowel cancer
  • Obesity increases a number of cancer risks
  • High levels of sex hormones increase risk of breast cancer
  • Increased fat intake increases the risk of breast cancer
  • Increases in eating fruit and vegetables reduces the risk from all causes of an early death
  • High blood glucose levels are associated with increased risk of heart disease
  • The combined impact of four behaviours – not smoking, being physically active, moderate alcohol intake and the consumption of at least five fruit and vegetable servings a day – was estimated to amount to 14 additional years of life (Khaw et al. 2008)

Subsequent findings from 2012 and 2013 are:

Subsequent findings from 2021 are:

  • Dietary factors associated with reduced cancer mortality included raw vegetable intake; dietary fiber intake; the Mediterranean diet; other diet patterns included low meat eaters, vegetarians/vegans, or fish eaters.[4]


  1. ^ Bingham, S.; Riboli, E. (2004). "Diet and cancer — the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition" (PDF). Nature Reviews Cancer. 4 (3): 206–15. doi:10.1038/nrc1298. PMID 14993902. S2CID 2887530.
  2. ^ Zamora-Ros R, Agudo A, Luján-Barroso L, Romieu I, Ferrari P, Knaze V, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Leenders M, Travis RC, Navarro C, Sánchez-Cantalejo E, Slimani N, Scalbert A, Fedirko V, Hjartåker A, Engeset D, Skeie G, Boeing H, Förster J, Li K, Teucher B, Agnoli C, Tumino R, Mattiello A, Saieva C, Johansson I, Stenling R, Redondo ML, Wallström P, Ericson U, Khaw KT, Mulligan AA, Trichopoulou A, Dilis V, Katsoulis M, Peeters PH, Igali L, Tjønneland A, Halkjær J, Touillaud M, Perquier F, Fagherazzi G, Amiano P, Ardanaz E, Bredsdorff L, Overvad K, Ricceri F, Riboli E, González CA (2012). "Dietary flavonoid and lignan intake and gastric adenocarcinoma risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 96 (6): 1398–1408. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.037358. PMID 23076618.
  3. ^ Sabine Rohrmann; Kim Overvad; H Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita; Marianne U Jakobsen; Rikke Egeberg; Anne Tjønneland; Laura Nailler; Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault; Françoise Clavel-Chapelon; Vittorio Krogh; Domenico Palli; Salvatore Panico; Rosario Tumino; Fulvio Ricceri; Manuela M Bergmann; Heiner Boeing; Kuanrong Li; Rudolf Kaaks; Kay-Tee Khaw; Nicholas J Wareham; Francesca L Crowe; Timothy J Key; Androniki Naska; Antonia Trichopoulou; Dimitirios Trichopoulos; Max Leenders; Petra HM Peeters; Dagrun Engeset; Christine L Parr; Guri Skeie; Paula Jakszyn; María-José Sánchez; José M Huerta; M Luisa Redondo; Aurelio Barricarte; Pilar Amiano; Isabel Drake; Emily Sonestedt; Göran Hallmans; Ingegerd Johansson; Veronika Fedirko; Isabelle Romieux; Pietro Ferrari; Teresa Norat; Anne C Vergnaud; Elio Riboli; Jakob Linseisen (7 March 2013). "Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition". BMC Medicine. 11: 63. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-63. PMC 3599112. PMID 23497300. The results of our analysis support a moderate positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, in particular due to cardiovascular diseases, but also to cancer. open access
  4. ^ Molina-Montes, Esther; Ubago-Guisado, Esther; Petrova, Dafina; Amiano, Pilar; Chirlaque, María-Dolores; Agudo, Antonio; Sánchez, María-José (2021-11-28). "The Role of Diet, Alcohol, BMI, and Physical Activity in Cancer Mortality: Summary Findings of the EPIC Study". Nutrients. 13 (12): 4293. doi:10.3390/nu13124293. ISSN 2072-6643. PMC 8709081. PMID 34959845.

Selected papers[edit]



External links[edit]