How does a prospective cohort study work?

Prospective cohort studies, such as the ABC Study, start with a group of people who are generally healthy, assess a range of lifestyle factors, such as body size, diet and alcohol consumption and collect biological samples, and then follow them over time. We update the information on factors that may change over time and record the occurrence of disease.

Cohort studies such as this have provided much of the information we know today about the links between diet, lifestyle and health outcomes. One of the most well-known cohort studies, the British Doctors’ Study, which ran from 1951 to 2001, provided the key evidence that tobacco smoking increased the risk of lung cancer.

Cohort studies take time. It will be several years before we have collected enough data to begin analysis. Once we do, we will be able to look back at the different lifestyle factors and other measures taken using biological samples and assess how they relate, individually and in combination, to the development of cancer and other diseases. 

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Cancer Epidemiology Division
Cancer Council Victoria
615 St Kilda Road
Melbourne 3004, Australia