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A renamed and better-funded cancer research unit has been launched at a function at the University of Otago.
Dr Russell McIllroy, national president of the Cancer Society of New Zealand Inc, was among those who spoke at last Friday's function to mark the re-launch of the Cancer Society Social and Behavioural Research Unit.
This was previously called the Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group.
It is still based at the university's department of preventive and social medicine.
Another speaker, unit director Dr Tony Reeder, said the re-launch celebrated 18 years of Cancer Society core funding.
After a "very positive" external scientific review of the research group, the society had provided a new three-year contract, amounting to $300,000 a year.
This was three times the previous funding level, he said in an interview.
The 12-strong research unit also received funding from many other agencies, including the Health Research Council.
The unit also supervised postgraduate students, including five PhD candidates.
The increased core funding was for a research support staff position and more part-time researchers in key areas, including healthy physical activity and nutrition; solar ultraviolet radiation exposure (vitamin D and skin cancer studies); and tobacco control.
"Without such core support, it is difficult to maintain the critical mass of skilled researchers required to make a sustained impact," he said.
The society's Internet site notes that social and behavioural research seeks to find out what influences people to behave in the ways they do, and why they sometimes behave in unhealthy ways.
"We know that many cancers are caused by potentially modifiable risk factors, such as tobacco smoking, poor nutrition, inactivity and over-exposure to the sun," society officials said.
The unit's main goal was to "work to advance our understanding about how to prevent cancer-related diseases in order to reduce the prevalence of cancer", officials said.