EPIC was designed to investigate the relationships between diet, nutritional status, lifestyle and environmental factors and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases. EPIC is the largest study of diet and health ever undertaken, having recruited over half a million (520,000) people in ten European countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Within these countries EPIC research scientists are based in 23 centres: one in France (Paris), Greece (Athens) and Norway (Tromsø), two in Denmark (Aarhus and Copenhagen), Germany (Heidelberg and Potsdam), Sweden (Malmo and Umea), the Netherlands (Bilthoven and Utrecht) and the United Kingdom (Cambridge and Oxford), five in Italy (Florence, Milan, Naples, Ragusa and Turin) and Spain (Granada, Murcia, Asturias, Pamplona, and San Sebastian with Barcelona the co-ordination centre). Originally there were 7 countries involved but between 1995 and 2000 Sweden, Denmark and Norway, which were already involved in similar studies, joined EPIC and thus broadened the European cohort to include Scandinavian populations.
Recruitment into the study, which was initiated in 1992, was principally from the general population aged 20 years or over, and took place between 1993 and 1999. Detailed information on diet and lifestyle was obtained by questionnaire, and anthropometric measurements and blood samples were taken at recruitment. The blood is stored in liquid nitrogen for future analyses. By studying very many people in different countries with differing diets, using carefully designed and tested questionnaires, EPIC should produce much more specific information about the effect of diet on long-term health than any previous study. The first results were presented in June 2001 at the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer and the conference proceedings have been published in Riboli E., Lambert A. (eds) : Nutrition and lifestyle : Opportunities for Cancer Prevention. IARC Sci. Publ. No.156. 2002.
It is planned to follow-up the study participants for the next 10 years at least, continuing to study the role of nutrition and lifestyle in cancer development and other chronic diseases.
In September 2001 the 5 A Day Initiative project, under the auspices of the German Cancer Society in Frankfurt, Germany entered into a collaborative research agreement with the EPIC study.