Beating bowel cancer together

The impact of using lifestyle or genetic information to decide at what age to start inviting people for bowel cancer screening in England

Lead researcher: Dr Juliet Usher-Smith  

Location: University of Cambridge

Grant award: £64,995

Research has already shown that the national bowel cancer screening programme can save lives. In this project, Dr Usher-Smith and her colleagues will be looking at whether more information on lifestyle factors or genes could help improve the screening programme further.

The challenge

At the moment adults are invited to take part in bowel cancer screening based only on their age. However, other factors such as body weight, diet, family history and genes also affect risk of getting bowel cancer.

The science behind the project

This research will be done in three parts. For the first stage of the project, the researchers will update their review of research that’s already been done in this area, specifically looking at how models including information about people’s genes can be used to predict risk of bowel cancer. The second stage of the project will involve using data from over half a million people in the UK Biobank study, to test how well the models can find people in the UK who get bowel cancer. In the final stage of the project, they will use this information alongside details of the bowel cancer screening programme to see the effect of using these models to decide when to invite people to take part.

What difference will this project make?

The research will tell us which of the models work best to predict risk of bowel cancer and whether it is helpful to use these models to decide who should be invited to take part in bowel cancer screening and when. As well as the potential to save lives and reduce the number of people having unnecessary investigations, this approach could also save money. 

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