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Of pills and ills

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7268.1042 (Published 28 October 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1042

Valerie Beral has just recruited the millionth woman to her women's health research project. She talks to Geoff Watts about the pill, pregnancy, and cancer

“The scientists hate publicity; the clinicians tolerate it; the epidemiologists crave it.” The man who offered me that rule of thumb was a senior staff member of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF). Although it was meant (I think) as an observation rather than a gibe, Professor Valerie Beral, director of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's cancer epidemiology unit, bridled a bit when I asked what she thought of it. “One of the major deterrents when I was offered the ICRF job in 1989 was the thought of being so much in the public eye. It's not my nature.”

On reflection though—and when I emphasised that it was not meant as a put down—she conceded that there was some truth in the dictum. Clinicians have the personal rewards of helping an individual; epidemiologists' findings amount to little if no one takes any notice and nothing changes. “Yes, I suppose you have to go out and say things. I do see it as part of my job.”

Indeed it is—and has been for years. With oestrogens in …

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