Challenges and opportunities in research on early-life events/exposures and cancer development later in life
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It is becoming increasingly evident that early-life events and exposures have important consequences for cancer development later in life. However, epidemiological studies of early-life factors and cancer development later in life have had significant methodological challenges such as the long latency period, the distinctiveness of each cancer, and large number of subjects that must be studied, all likely to increase costs. These traditional hurdles might be mitigated by leveraging several existing large-scale prospective studies in the United States (US) and globally, as well as birth databases and birth cohorts, in order to launch both association and mechanistic studies of early-life exposures and cancer development later in life. Dedicated research funding will be needed to advance this paradigm shift in cancer research, and it seems justified by its potential to produce transformative understanding of how cancer develops over the life-course. This in turn has the potential to transform cancer prevention strategies through interventions in early-life rather than later in life, as is the current practice, where it is perhaps less effective.
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