Aberdeen scientist, Dr Paul Haggarty based at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in the University of Aberdeen, has received a project grant worth almost £147,000 from one of the UK’s leading breast cancer research charities, Breast Cancer Campaign.
Dr Haggarty will work with breast cancer surgeon, Professor Steven Heys, and nutritionist, Dr Geraldine McNeill, to identify which diet and lifestyle choices may lead to breast cancer.
The grant forms part of £2.3 million awarded to 20 projects around the UK and will fill one of the research gaps identified by the country's top breast cancer experts in a recent study carried out by the charity.
In the UK each year almost 46,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. It is therefore vital to be able to predict who is at risk and help those individuals to reduce their risk.
Breast cancer develops when the genes begin to behave abnormally. This can occur when the structure of the genes is altered by what is known as 'epigenetic' marking. Diet and lifestyle factors are known to alter this epigenetic mark even in healthy cells.
Dr Haggarty believes that a persons diet and lifestyle choices can change the epigenetic status of their genes in ways which put them at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr Haggarty said "We will study the epigenetic marks in genes of people with breast cancer and healthy individuals and compare this to their diet and lifestyle to identify which epigenetic changes are linked to breast cancer development and how these changes are related dietary/lifestyle choices."
Pamela Goldberg, Chief Executive, Breast Cancer Campaign said, "Breast cancer incidence has risen by 26 per cent over the last ten years and still continues to rise. It is important to identify ways people can reduce their breast cancer risk by changing simple dietary and lifestyle factors."