EPIC-Norfolk is part of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC), a large multi-centre cohort study with participants enrolled from 23 centres across Europe, EPIC-Norfolk being one of them. The International EPIC page gives more information on the EPIC study.
Over 30,000 people living in Norwich and surrounding towns and rural areas were recruited into the EPIC-Norfolk study between 1993 and 1997. The participants are men and women who were aged between 39 and 79 at recruitment. They have continued to contribute information about their diet, lifestyle and health through questionnaires and health checks for over 25 years. The EPIC-Norfolk timeline summarises the various stages of the study.
Norfolk was chosen as the study area for two reasons; firstly it is served by only one general hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust. Secondly, at the time, few people in the age group of interest moved out of the county. The combination of these factors would make it easier to follow the participants over a long period of time.
EPIC-Norfolk was designed as a prospective study, with the aim of gathering lifestyle and nutritional information from a very large number of people, repeated over time. Any participants who then develop one of the diseases under investigation are recorded. This allows the investigation of relationships between dietary and lifestyle factors and risk of disease development, without the need for participants to recall dietary and lifestyle habits prior to diagnosis.
The original aim was to identify a cohort of 25,000 men and women from the general population of Norfolk. This cohort size was a compromise between the large numbers needed to get enough observations on people who developed cancer or other diseases, and the expense of making detailed measurements on the whole cohort. In fact, over 30,000 participants were recruited into EPIC-Norfolk at baseline. All participants completed the initial questionnaires and we have continued to follow them through health records linkage. Over 25,000 of these participants went on to attended health check appointments.
The primary aim of the international EPIC study, and therefore EPIC-Norfolk, was to examine the relationships between what people have reported as their dietary intake and incident cancers; that is, cancers which have developed after they joined the study. This was later broadened to include lifestyle and genetic factors and other diseases. In EPIC-Norfolk, these include heart attacks and strokes, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and many others. The data collected in the EPIC-Norfolk study has also allowed the link between disease and other factors, such as psychosocial health, to be studied. Some of the work on different diseases and factors is carried out in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions.
More information about the different phases of the study and the data collected can be found on the health checks and follow up pages.