Simplyhealth donates £185,000 for cancer prevention research

Scientists investigating the link between diet and cancer of the mouth have been given a £185,000 boost by healthcare provider Simplyhealth.

Simplyhealth 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). Head of Fundraising Paul Fretwell said: “This is the second project Simplyhealth have contributed towards, demonstrating their real commitment to cancer prevention research.

“This wonderful donation will be a huge boost for the project, allowing the research team to determine what kind of diet might help reduce the risk of mouth cancer.

“On behalf of WCRF I’d like to thank everyone at Simplyhealth for this very generous gesture that will go towards scientists studying and helping prevent cancers linked to oral HPV infection.”

The research, led by Professor Hilary Powers, is investigating how aspects of our 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 greatly 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 and may come and go without a person ever knowing. But frequent infections, or infections which linger, may increase cancer risk. Previous studies have pointed to a link between diet and the likelihood of having an HPV infection and of that infection lingering. In this way diet may influence the risk of HPV related cancers. 

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. The team will recruit about 700 men and women, testing for HPV infection in the mouth and measuring the concentration of methyl donors in the mouth and the bloodstream. The results will help to understand more about how diet may influence oral cancer risk.


We are delighted to offer World Cancer Research Fund and the research team at the University of Sheffield our support and we look forward to seeing the results of the project. If the research proves a success it could help prevent this type of cancer by identifying who would benefit from specific dietary advice.
Mark Day, spokesperson for Simplyhealth's Charitable Committee
We are very grateful to World Cancer Research Fund 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.
Professor Hilary Powers
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