Dr Ruth Travis is the Principal Investigator on a project we fund at the University of Oxford.
My current project is exploring a new field of research that has the potential to uncover many more clues on what we can do to help prevent prostate cancer through diet and lifestyle. Given that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide, this research is incredibly important and it would not be possible without the support of World Cancer Research Fund.
What we found
This new area of research is known as metabolomics and it measures small molecules in the blood called metabolites. Our study found that the levels of different metabolites that make up an individual’s metabolic ‘fingerprint’ in the blood were linked with their risk of developing prostate cancer. The study also found that these blood ‘fingerprints’ were different for aggressive and non-aggressive prostate cancer.
How does this relate to our daily lives?
The levels of different metabolites present in someone’s blood are partly determined by diet and lifestyle. This means that the ‘fingerprint’ of metabolites in the blood could give us new insights into how diet and lifestyle can affect prostate cancer risk.
The next stage of the project will focus on working out precisely how diet and lifestyle factors can affect the pattern of metabolites in the blood. This will help us achieve our ultimate aim of fully understanding how diet and lifestyle can help prevent prostate cancer.
It is also possible that in the future the metabolites we identified could be looked for in blood tests to detect prostate cancer early – although we’re not quite there yet, more research would be needed.
Making a difference
We already have evidence that maintaining a healthy weight is associated with a reduced risk of aggressive types of prostate cancer, but if more risk factors for prostate cancer are uncovered, this could help us prevent many more cases, particularly the more aggressive types.