Health behaviour and cancer risk
Professor Jane Wardle directs the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at University College London and is a prominent researcher in the field of cancer prevention.
Her team is investigating why people behave the way they do, and finding ways to help them change their lifestyle to reduce their cancer risk. It's estimated that around half of all cancers in the UK could be prevented by lifestyle changes.
Researchers at the unit are looking at how emotional, cognitive and social factors influence behaviour. One of the key areas of their work is obesity, which is thought to be linked to around 5 per cent of cancer deaths in the UK each year.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women, and also cancers of the womb, gallbladder and kidney. Obesity might also increase the risk of prostate, pancreatic and bowel cancers.
The unit has recently found that some people may be more prone to obesity because their genetic make-up makes them more likely to overeat or less likely to exercise.
If researchers could identify genetic markers that predict the likelihood of obesity, they could identify individuals most at risk and offer additional support to help them control their weight.
Professor Wardle believes that understanding the underlying factors behind obesity will help prevent the condition and, in turn, reduce the incidence of cancer.