HC Deb 13 January 2003 vol 397 cc482-3W
Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research projects focusing on(a) the link between physical activity and the development of breast cancer,(b) diet and the development of breast cancer and (c) breast cancer prevention his Department is funding;and if he will make a statement. [88716]

Ms Blears

The Medical Research Council (MRC), which receives its funding from the Department of Trade and Industry via the Office of Science and Technology, is the main agency through which the Government supports research on the causes and treatments of disease, including all types of cancer. The Department of Health contributes to the strategies and priorities of the MRC by meeting the national health service costs of the MRC's research (and of charity funded research). The Department also directly funds research to support policy development in health and social care, and to support effective practice in the NHS.

In terms of directly funded research, the Department's main focus is on interventions to promote healthy living, including diet and physical exercise, and on research on breast cancer screening. For example, the Department is funding research projects with the following titles: A health impact assessment of agricultural policy, using the impact on fruit and vegetable consumption as a case study; Reducing inequalities in health and diet: the impact of a food retail development—a pilot study; Field co-ordination in health promotion linked to the Cochrane Collaboration.

The Department also funds a programme of work at the cancer screening evaluation unit, which evaluates the effectiveness of screening. Part of this programme includes work on breast cancer screening. There are plans for an observational individual-based study of the efficacy of the breast screening programme. The Department provides joint funding for the age trial, on the effect on breast cancer mortality of annual screening from age 40.

Over 75 per cent, of the Department's total expenditure on all health research, including on cancer, is devolved to NHS organisations and details are not routinely collected centrally. Summary information about this research is available on the national research register, which is on the web at www.doh.gov.uk/ research.

The Department is a member of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). The recent NCRI report "Strategic Analysis 2002" analysed most of the directly funded research of Government and charity funders. The analyses revealed relatively low sums spent on cancer prevention, which has prompted the NCRI to set up a strategic planning group to look at this area to see what further research may be possible and what extra resources might be needed to bring this about. The Department will be working in partnership with its Government and charity cancer research funding partners to take this work forward.