PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Maria Arriaga

15 September 2014
TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Maria Arriaga

Relative importance of lifestyle-related risk factors for rare cancers in Australia

Award: Maria is the recipient of a one-year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisors: Dr Maarit Laaksonen and Ass. Prof. Claire Vajdic, Lowy Cancer Research Centre, UNSW.

The aim of my project is to quantify the population-level relevance of lifestyle-related risk factors for four rarer cancers (oesophagus, pancreas, ovary and endometrium) using data from seven Australian cohort studies, with 369,727 adult participants.

To-date, no estimates of avoidable cancer burden have been published from Australian cohort studies. The few international studies available focus mainly on common cancers. To do this, I will estimate the strength of the exposure-cancer association from the cohort studies, linked to national cancer registries, and the exposure prevalence from representative National Health Surveys, and combine them using an advanced disease burden measure.


What is the translational application of your research?

This study will provide novel and up-to-date Australian evidence-based estimates of the population-level relevance of lifestyle-related risk factors for four rarer cancers with a high burden of disease (oesophagus, pancreas, ovary, and endometrium). Targeted modifications of key preventable causes are likely to have a large impact on reducing the cancer burden in Australia.

The limited current evidence for the Australian population emphasizes the importance of the findings of this study in planning national cancer prevention strategies. I will produce the first Australian and the most accurate international estimates.

This study will bridge the gap between the theory and the application of disease burden measures by translating theoretical innovations into practical epidemiologic applications, and translating epidemiologic evidence into more rigorous evidence-based practice. The results of this study can be directly translated to public health good by health policy makers, authorities responsible for planning cancer prevention programs, clinicians, and the general public.


"The TCRN Scholarship Top-up will give me the opportunity to interact with people from different background like scientists and clinicians working in the area of cancer research, and to attend relevant conferences where I can broaden my knowledge and share my research findings. I also hope to collaborate with TCRN in translating my research results into practice.

Maria Arriaga commenced her first year of PhD studies at the Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW in 2014.

Read more about TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-Up Awardees