Interaction between people and technologyThis research group investigates how we can stay healthy and which environmental factors affect our health.
Paul Scheepers explains
Preventing disease and limiting the burden of disease is the focus of our research. The most important motive of the Risk Assessment and Molecular Epidemiology group is the prevention of disease, especially cancer. We investigate the risk factors for several types of cancer. For example, we know that smoking is an important cause of cancer, but what about other substances in our diet and our living and working environment?
Q1 What are the difficulties of this research?
Preventing disease and limiting the burden of disease.
''Research into the causes of cancer is a long-term and complex process. Many years often pass between research and results. First of all, it is very difficult to show that reducing risk factors actually results in reduced incidence of disease. Secondly, economic motives often outweigh health motives when making choices about cleaning up our living environment. For example, clean transport fuels can result in fewer cancer patients. Nevertheless, not all of us drive cars that use such fuels.''
Q2 What about the on-site research?
''The Risk Assessment and Molecular Epidemiology group conducts a great deal of on-site research, for example in people’s living or working environment. Are they exposed to radiation, noise or hazardous substances and how does this affect their health? For example, we investigate the consequences of exposure to formaldehyde (a result of outgassing from particle board). This material is used in construction and furniture. Inhalation of formaldehyde can lead to irritation of the eyes and the respiratory tract, and long-term exposure can lead to an increased risk of rare forms of cancer. Formaldehyde is also used frequently in pathological research, in mortuaries and in the dissecting rooms used for medical training. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) we are developing a formaldehyde filter that will be tested in the International Space Station (ISS). If this filter works as expected, this technology can also be used to clean the air in hospital workplaces and in school buildings.''
“It would be wonderful if each euro spent on cancer treatment was matched with one euro for cancer prevention. It has become clear that not all cancer treatments are curative. Cancer is a chronic disease. Consequently, we should pay more attention to cases of cancer that can be prevented, especially because environmental factors are an important risk factor. Developing new treatments for cancer takes many years, but reducing exposure to external factors is something that you can start doing today."