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Oxford Cancer Research UK duo scoop international science award

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by Cancer Research UK | News

13 January 2005

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Two of Oxford’s most eminent cancer scientists have received an important international award in recognition of their pioneering work in establishing the link between tobacco and disease.

Cancer Research UK’s Professor Sir Richard Doll and Professor Sir Richard Peto, of the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU) at Oxford University, have been jointly awarded the King Faisal International Prize For Medicine.

The prize is awarded annually by the King Faisal Foundation in Saudi Arabia, established in memory of the renowned Saudi statesman following his death in 1976.

Over the past 27 years, a total of 46 scholars from 11 different countries have won the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine.

The Foundation recognises Profs. Doll and Peto for “their pioneering and profoundly valuable epidemiological research that has unequivocally established the link between tobacco and various diseases, such as vascular diseases and cancers.”

The citation goes on: “So great has the impact of their studies been that several national health policies have been modified as a result of these findings. The World Health Organisation itself changed its position on smoking which culminated in a demonstrable decline in deaths related to cancer and atherosclerotic vascular diseases in several developed countries. Such significant benefits have transcended to large populations of developing countries as well, proffering an immeasurable contribution to mankind.”

Profs. Doll and Peto, whose work receives funding from Cancer Research UK, will receive the award in person at a ceremony in Saudi Arabia in March (date t.b.c.).

Prof Doll, aged 92, said: “The receipt of the King Faisal International Prize For Medicine for our work on smoking is doubly gratifying.

“It is personally very pleasing that our work should be thought of so highly, but it is also of particular help to all those who are seeking to improve public health worldwide, by emphasising the importance of reducing the use of tobacco throughout the Arabic speaking world.”

In 1954 Prof Doll co-authored a scientific paper that first made the link between smoking and lung cancer. At the time, 80 per cent of British adults smoked. Today, that figure is 26 per cent.

He went on to launch a 50-year-long study of smoking and death among British doctors, which revealed that, on average, cigarette smokers die ten years younger than non-smokers. Prof Peto collaborated on the study over the past 30 years.