Scientists investigating the link between diet and mouth cancer have received a £185,000 donation from Simplyhealth.
The healthcare insurer is supporting a three year University of Sheffield project examining the influence diet has on oral human papillomavirus (HPV), a risk factor for some cancers.
The donation was given to cancer prevention charity, World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
The research, led by Professor Hilary Powers, is investigating how diet may influence the risk of developing oral cancer through infection with HPV, which is known to cause some cancers.
The number of cases of oral cancer has increased over the last ten years, particularly cancers associated with HPV infection and the average age at diagnosis is falling. More than 6,000 cases are diagnosed in the UK every year, with more than 2,000 deaths.
HPV is a common infection but frequent infections, or infections which linger, may increase cancer risk. Previous studies have suggested a link between diet and the likelihood of having an HPV infection and of that infection remaining.
Professor Powers' team is investigating the association between oral HPV infection and a group of dietary compounds called methyl donors. These are found in a range of foods including green vegetables, beans, eggs and cereals.
Professor Powers said: "We are grateful to WCRF and Simplyhealth for supporting our research, which quite simply would not be possible without their backing. Cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx are increasing worldwide, especially those associated with infection by HPV.
"Our research will determine whether what we eat is linked to HPV infection and investigate how these compounds in our diet influence cell changes that can lead to cancer."
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