In 2020, we contributed new knowledge on the factors related to the development and progression of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) as well as the mechanisms involved in these diseases. Regarding cancer, we estimated that approximately 5% of new annual bladder cancer cases in Europe could be attributable to trihalomethanes in drinking water (1). We showed that the loss of function of key genes on the Y chromosome could help explain why men are more at risk of cancer (2).
We also provided further evidence supporting the early origins of chronic respiratory diseases: physical activity and lean body mass related to higher lung function growth in children and adolescents, while lower birth size, slower BMI gain and higher fat body mass in early childhood related to low lung function (3,4). In adults, weight gain was associated with accelerated decline in lung function, which was attenuated by weight loss (5). We showed for the first time an association between physical activity and a lower incidence of restrictive spirometry pattern (6). We reported that in COPD patients, physical activity progressed heterogeneously, contrary to general belief, with implications for clinical management (7).
Regarding other NCDs, we showed that access to urban green areas reduces the risk of obesity among women in Spain, although this was not due to the effect of air pollution or physical activity (8); and we provided new genetic and epigenetic biomarkers of obesity-related traits (9). As part of our research in LMICs, we studied biomarkers of kidney injury in Nicaraguan children (10).
The Programme was also active in developing new methodology. The use of e-Health tools proved feasible for measuring symptoms, work impact and sleep in patients with rhinitis across Europe (11). We developed methods to exploit data from genome wide association studies to assess the role of chromosome recombination in neurodevelopmental disorders and other complex diseases (12).
We are also leading ISGlobal’s activities to strengthen the new field of Planetary Health through cross-cutting collaborations within and outside our institution.