Professor Sir Richard Peto

The big picture of cancer

Based at the University of Oxford, Professor Sir Richard Peto is an epidemiologist who studies cancer patterns throughout the world – which populations have particularly high or low risks of the disease, and why. He has done more to assess the effects of smoking than any other active epidemiologist, showing that UK cancer death rates are still one-third higher than they would be if people didn’t smoke, and showing how greatly the death rates in India, China and the Americas are affected by tobacco.

He and his colleagues are running studies of millions of people followed for many years in many countries to assess the changing effects of smoking, drinking, diabetes and obesity on death from cancer and many other conditions. He was the first recipient of the Cancer Research UK annual Lifetime Achievement Award, and his work continues to provide evidence to back up our national and international cancer prevention policies.

Every few years, Professor Peto and his colleagues in the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG) also bring together detailed data on all of the women in all trials of breast cancer treatment, assessing effects on long-term survival of various types of radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. This important work influences breast cancer treatment guidelines in many countries, ensuring women are given the best available treatments for their disease.


Breast cancer
Cancer prevention
Clinical trials

Clinical Trial Service and Epidemiological Studies Unit, University of Oxford