EPIC Working Groups - Cancer Working Groups

The Lung Cancer Working Group

Lung cancer remains the most important cause of cancer death worldwide, and cases diagnosed at a late stage have extremely poor survival rates. An important aim of the EPIC Lung Cancer Working Group is therefore to carry out studies aiming to improve early detection and screening, in particular by evaluating risk prediction models and identify pre-diagnostic biomarkers for early detection. The ultimate aim is to improve the validity of risk prediction models and improve screening efficacy. Examples of this work include various risk modelling efforts,1 including multiple projects aiming to evaluate the extent to which circulating biomarkers can improve risk prediction.2

Other major activities within the Working Group involve evaluations of the role of environmental tobacco exposure3 and social inequalities,4 as well as identification of novel etiological factors that are independent of, or modified by, tobacco exposure. This is important as 5-20% of lung cancer cases occur among never-smokers, and in countries where anti-smoking campaigns have been successful, the majority of cases now occur in never-smokers or former smokers. This work includes studies on nutrients and circulatingbiomarkers5-8 and the contribution to genome-wide association studies (GWAS).9-11 This work resulted in the establishment of larger projects led by EPIC investigators, such as the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3), which brings together lung cancer investigators from over 20 prospective cohorts from around the world.12-17


Selected publications:

  1. Hoggart C, Brennan P, Tjonneland A, et al. A risk model for lung cancer incidence. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2012 Jun;5(6):834-46. PMID: 22496387

  2. Guida F, Sun N, Bantis LE, et al. Assessment of Lung Cancer Risk on the Basis of a Biomarker Panel of Circulating Proteins. JAMA Oncol. 2018. PMID: 30003238

  3. Vineis P, Airoldi L, Veglia F, et al. Environmental tobacco smoke and risk of respiratory cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in former smokers and never smokers in the EPIC prospective study. BMJ. 2005 Feb 5;330(7486):277. PMID: 15681570

  4. Menvielle G, Boshuizen H, Kunst AE, et al. The role of smoking and diet in explaining educational inequalities in lung cancer incidence. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009 Mar 4;101(5):321-30. PMID: 19244178

  5. Ward HA, Whitman J, Muller DC, et al. Haem iron intake and risk of lung cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Eur J Clin Nutr.. 2019 PMID: 30337714

  6. Theofylaktopoulou D, Midttun O, Ueland PM, et al. Impaired functional vitamin B6 status is associated with increased risk of lung cancer. Int J Cancer. 2018;142(12):2425-2434. PMID: 29238985

  7. Johansson M, Relton C, Ueland PM, et al. Serum B vitamin levels and risk of lung cancer. JAMA. 2010 Jun 16;303(23):2377-85. PMID: 20551408

  8. Brenner DR, Fanidi A, Grankvist K, et al. Inflammatory Cytokines and Lung Cancer Risk in 3 Prospective Studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2017;185(2):86-95. PMID: 27998891

  9. McKay JD, Hung RJ, Han Y, et al. Large-scale association analysis identifies new lung cancer susceptibility loci and heterogeneity in genetic susceptibility across histological subtypes.. Nat Genet. 2017;49(7):1126-1132. PMID: 28604730

  10. McKay JD, Hung RJ, Han Y, et al. Lung cancer susceptibility locus at 5p15.33.. Nat Genet. 2008;40(12):1404-1406. PMID: 18978790

  11. Hung RJ, McKay JD, Gaborieau V, et al. A susceptibility locus for lung cancer maps to nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit genes on 15q25. Nature. 2008 Apr 3;452(7187):633-7. PMID: 18385738

  12. Zuo H, Ueland P, Midttun Ø,et al. Vitamin B6 catabolism and lung cancer risk: results from the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3). Annals of Oncology. 2019. PMID: 30698666

  13. Muller DC, Larose TL, Hodge A, et al. Circulating high sensitivity C reactive protein concentrations and risk of lung cancer: nested case-control study within Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium. BMJ. 2019;364:k4981. PMID: 30606716

  14. Muller DC, Hodge AM, Fanidi A, et al. No association between circulating concentrations of vitamin D and risk of lung cancer: an analysis in 20 prospective studies in the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3). Ann Oncol. 2018;29(6):1468-1475. PMID: 29617726

  15. Midttun O, Theofylaktopoulou D, McCann A, et al. Circulating concentrations of biomarkers and metabolites related to vitamin status, one-carbon and the kynurenine pathways in US, Nordic, Asian, and Australian populations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;105(6):1314-1326. PMID: 28424186

  16. Larose TL, Guida F, Fanidi A, et al. Circulating cotinine concentrations and lung cancer risk in the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3). Int J Epidemiol. 2018. PMID: 29901778

  17. Fanidi A, Muller DC, Yuan JM, et al. Circulating Folate, Vitamin B6, and Methionine in Relation to Lung Cancer Risk in the Lung Cancer Cohort Consortium (LC3). J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018;110(1). PMID: 28922778


Contact details/Working Group leader

Mattias Johansson, PhD
Genetic Epidemiology Group (GEP)
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO)
150 cours Albert Thomas 69008, Lyon, France