Q. What is the purpose of the study?
A. By investigating the interplay between environmental, hormonal and genetic factors and risk of developing breast cancer in a large group of women, the Generations Study aims to discover the causes of breast cancer, and hence to enable prevention of this disease.
Q. Why is the study needed?
A. Scientific evidence indicates that the causation of breast cancer involves a complex mixture of factors – some to do with behaviour, some to do with environment and some genetic (inherited).
These factors act at many different stages of life, starting in childhood and perhaps even earlier, before birth, and continuing to the menopause and beyond. To find out what these factors are and how they combine with each other to cause breast cancer, a study is needed in which information is collected from women throughout their lives, and analysed to determine their risks of breast cancer in relation to these factors. In medical terminology this type of study is called a “cohort” study”.
Cohort studies need to include a very large number of people, and to continue for a long time, but in the long-run they are the most powerful method available to science to find out the causes of cancer in people.
Q. What are the benefits of the study?
A. By participating, women help in the search for factors that cause breast cancer and hence for ways in which the disease can be prevented. Finding out about such factors is important both for the care and counselling of the families of breast cancer patients, and also for women in general, to understand their risks and to find ways in which they can be reduced. The results of the study will be available to participants if they want to know them, but the study will not provide results about individuals.
Q. Who is leading the study?
A. The study is led by Professor Anthony Swerdlow (Professor of Epidemiology at The Institute of Cancer Research).
Q. How is the study controlled?
A. The governance and overall running of the study is the responsibility of the Oversight Body, whose members include representatives from Breast Cancer Now and The Institute of Cancer Research as well as independent scientists and women taking part in the study.
Q. Who is funding the study?
A. The study is being funded jointly by the charity Breast Cancer Now and The Institute of Cancer Research, which is part of the University of London.
Q. How long will the study run?
A. The Study will run for the next 40 years and beyond, although it is already producing findings about breast cancer.
Q. Will the information collected about me be kept confidential?
A. Yes, all information collected about you during the course of the research will be treated in the strictest confidence and kept under the supervision of Professor Swerdlow, who is a medical doctor. We will not pass on personal information to anyone outside the study, and no individually-identifiable information will be published