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The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)

  • Carlos A Gonzalez (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 January 2007

To describe the main finding produced so far by the EPIC project, which aims to improve the scientific knowledge of nutritional factors involved in cancer.

Design and setting

Prospective cohort study in 23 centres from 10 European countries. Dietary assessment method varied by countries: in some cases a diet history by personal interview was carried out, while in most countries a self-administered semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire was used; in one case the questionnaire was combined with a food record. Information on a wide range of lifestyle factors and anthropometric measurements were also collected for most participants.


The cohort includes 521 468 men and women mostly aged between 39 and 69 years, whereas blood samples are available for 387 889 subjects.


To date 24 185 cancer cases have been identified in the follow-up of the cohort. The publications produced by each centre can be consulted on the EPIC website ( Among initial findings concerning the associations between cancer and dietary factors, one of the most important results is a protective effect of high fibre intake and fish consumption against colorectal cancer, while high red and processed meat intake increase the risk. Regarding lung cancer the first analyses found a protective effect of fruit intake but no association with vegetable consumption. No association was observed between vegetables and fruit intake and the risk of prostate cancer or breast cancer. Finally, data from Cambridge point to an interesting result regarding breast cancer: no association was observed with saturated fat intake measured by food-frequency questionnaire, but according to the food diary a daily intake of 35 g doubles the risk of breast cancer compared to women with daily intake of 10 g or less.

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1TJ Key , NE Allen , EA Spencer , RC Travis . The effect of diet on risk of cancer. Lancet 2002; 360: 861–8.

2RL Prentice . Dietary assessment and the reliability of nutritional epidemiology reports. Lancet 2003; 362: 182–3.

3S Bingham , E Riboli . Diet and cancer–The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Nature Reviews. Cancer 2004; 4: 206–15.

5N Slimani , R Kaaks , P Ferrari , C Casagrande , F Clavel-Chapelon , G Lotze , European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) calibration study: rationale, design and population characteristics. Public Health Nutrition 2002; 5: 1125–45.

7TJ Key , N Allen , P Appleby , K Overvad , A Tjonneland , A Miller , Fruits and vegetables and prostate cancer: no association among 1104 cases in a prospective study of 130 544 men in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). International Journal of Cancer 2004; 109: 119–24.

8SA Bingham , NE Day , R Luben , P Ferrari , N Slimani , T Norat , Dietary fibre in food and protection against colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC): an observational study. Lancet 2003; 361: 1496–501.

10T Norat , S Bingham , P Ferrari , N Slimani , M Jenab , M Mazuir , Meat, fish, and colorectal cancer risk: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005; 97: 906–16.

11AB Miller , HP Altenburg , B Bueno-de-Mesquita , HC Boshuizen , A Agudo , F Berrino , Fruits and vegetables and lung cancer: findings from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. International Journal of Cancer 2004; 108 269–76.

12SA Bingham , R Luben , A Welch , N Wareham , KT Khaw , N Day . Fat and breast cancer: are imprecise methods obscuring a relation between fat and breast cancer? Lancet 2003; 362: 212–4.

13CH van Gils , PHM Peeters , B Bueno-de-Mesquita , HC Boshuizen , PH Lahmann , F Clavel-Chapelon , Consumption of vegetables and fruits and risk of breast cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association 2005; 293: 183–93.

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