MERIT Award Recipient: Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.
Cancer Risk Reduction and Diet: A Cohort Study of Women
Compared with women living in Europe and North America, Chinese women in Shanghai have considerably lower incidence rates of cancers of the breast, colon, ovary, corpus uteri, and pancreas. Traditional Chinese diets are high in soy products, allium vegetables, crucifers, and tea, all of which have been shown in many cell culture and animal experiments to have potential cancer-inhibitory effects. However, there have been few human studies on the influence of these dietary factors on disease. The Shanghai Women's Health Study (SWHS) is a large, population-based, cohort study of approximately 75,000 Chinese women who completed a lifestyle survey and were recruited between 1997 and 2000. We are following these women over a long period of time through multiple, in-person follow-up interviews and record linkages to update information about their lifestyle characteristics and whether they develop cancer or other diseases. Because of its size, setting, and existing inventory of epidemiological and clinical data and biological specimens, the SWHS provides an exceptional opportunity to address many significant hypotheses related to the epidemiology and etiology of cancer and other chronic diseases. In the first broad aim of the study, we are using the epidemiological and clinical data to evaluate whether certain dietary and other lifestyle factors are associated with a reduced risk of cancer in humans. The results will improve recommendations for foods that may help to prevent cancer. The second broad aim of the project is to evaluate cancer risk biomarkers for use in risk assessment models. We are conducting a series of case-control comparison studies to evaluate several promising biomarkers, such as genetic variants, DNA copy number variants, as well as telomere and prostaglandin markers. We will then evaluate the utility of models that incorporate the most reliable biomarkers in assessing individual risk for cancer. These results should help in the development of risk assessment programs that are able to identify the high-risk populations that will benefit most from cancer screening. Overall, the results of this study will have significant implications for the primary and secondary prevention of common cancers in both Western and Asian women.