Diet, Cancer and Health
Our research group focuses on epidemiological cancer research and prevention within emphasis on nutrition and public health
Our research group focuses on epidemiological cancer research and prevention with emphasis on nutrition and public health. We often include biological analysis like biomarkers, genes and other markers of health and disease in our studies. We have many years of experience with establishment and exploration of cohort studies and are responsible for the Diet, Cancer and Health cohort and its extension the Diet, Cancer, and Health- Next Generations cohort.
Our group is both a research group and a management office for the extensive data- and biobank.
Our main research domains are:
Dietary patterns, lifestyle factors, hormonal aspects and metabolic measures in relation to cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
Evaluation and validation of metabolic and dietary assessment tools.
Some concrete research projects include:
- Polly: Prevention of polyps and colorectal cancer
- Is organic food consumption associated with the risk of cancer?
- Source dependent nitrate and nitrit intake and risk of colorectal, stomach, and bladder cancer
- Metabolic unbalances and cancer
- Healthy ageing
- Novel approaches to study statins as cancer preventive agents
- Body composition and risk of obesity-related cancers
Our research methods are embedded within epidemiology and range from questionnaire studies on lifestyle and environmental factors, registry-based studies on e.g., familial factors for cancer, validation studies and research based on the biological material such as research into biomarkers, metabolomics, and the microbiome. We seek collaborations with national and international experts within various areas including clinical research, systems biology, nutrition, food sciences, epidemiology and genetics.
Through the cohorts, we are involved in many national and international collaborations and research networks, that covers a wide range of research domains.
Our aim is to contribute to research on cancer pathogenesis and prevention with emphasis on modifiable risk factors. We want to increase the preventable fraction of cancer and be able to advice citizens, patients, and physicians in relation to diet and lifestyle. We strive to ensure this focus by:
- Conducting research that relates to the general population and its health challenges in close collaboration with patients and national as well as international experts
- Supplying knowledge to authorities and disseminate our knowledge to the public
- Making our data- and biobank resource available to the broad research community
Group leader: Anja Olsen
Holding an MSc in Human Nutrition, the role of diet in cancer prevention has always been Anja Olsen's main interest.
She has worked at the Danish Cancer Society since 2000 and part time as a Professor at Department of Public Health, Aarhus University since 2019.
Anja Olsen has a strong interest in conducting research that can directly affect population-related guidance. Long-term interests include studies of the role of phytoestrogens in prevention of and prognosis after cancer, the role of whole-grain in prevention of cancer and other non-communicable diseases and the association between selenium and prostate cancer.
Breast Cancer Epidemiology Team
Our main research area is breast cancer epidemiology including investigations of a variety of breast cancer risk and preventive factors as well as survivorship issues. Risk factors of particular interest include reproductive and hormonal factors, obesity, prescription drugs, breast cancer therapies including tamoxifen and genetics. Our group has particular focus on contralateral breast cancer and pregnancy-associated breast cancer.
A variety of common drugs has received interest as potential cancer preventive agents due to observations in experimental studies. However, for many of these drugs, no clear evidence for a protective effect on breast cancer has been found in epidemiologic studies. A possible explanation for this may be that it is difficult to identify anti-cancer effects of specific drugs in the general population due to different drug usage patterns and varying degrees of susceptibility to breast cancer.
Drug effects may be more easily assessed in studies of high risk women. One possibility is to investigate risk of contralateral breast cancer among breast cancer survivors, a group known to be susceptible to breast cancer. Therefore, we have a research project investigating use of various non-cancer drugs such as statins, NSAIDs and anti-histamines among women with breast cancer and risk of contralateral breast cancer. These efforts will be continued by pursuing findings among women with prior breast cancer in other groups of women at high risk of breast cancer.
Another research interest is hormonal factors and breast cancer including the possibilities to lower risk of breast cancer through surgical intervention. Removal of the ovaries leads to changes in sex hormone levels that may reduce the risk of breast cancer. However, this has not been clearly shown in epidemiologic studies. We have initiated a project that aims to provide more knowledge on how the risk of breast cancer is affected by removal of both ovaries, and furthermore how this surgical procedure affects type of breast cancer and the prognosis after breast cancer.
Hormones also play a key role in relation to pregnancy and breast cancer. Cancer is rarely diagnosed during pregnancy, however, among the cancers that coincide with pregnancy breast cancer is among the three most common ones. Studies on survival after breast cancer during pregnancy have provided inconsistent results, some showing a worse survival while others showing no difference in survival compared to non-pregnant women with breast cancer. If breast cancer is diagnosed shortly after a birth, a worse prognosis has been observed. Little is known about the exact time frame and about possibilities to reverse this pattern. These are research issues that our group will address in a project on pregnancy and breast cancer.
The research projects mentioned above are examples of projects that are carried out in our group. This is done together with external collaborators.
Team Leader: Lene Mellemkjær
Lene Mellemkjær has a bachelor degree in medicine and a master degree in human biology. She has a PhD in cancer epidemiology from University of Copenhagen in 1997.
Lene Mellemkjær joined the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in 1992. In 1999, she was appointed senior researcher. She has extensive knowledge of, and experience with Danish health registers and has worked on various studies involving collection of data through questionnaires, medical records and biospecimens.
While her early years in cancer research were focused on lymphoproliferative malignancies, her current research interests concentrate on breast cancer epidemiology. Factors of particular interest both in regards to incidence of and survival after breast cancer include reproductive and hormonal factors, obesity, prescription drugs, breast cancer therapies including tamoxifen and genetics.