Sir Richard Peto given Lifetime Achievement Award

Presented to cancer research scientist at BMJ Group Awards

Cancer Research UK scientist Professor Sir Richard Peto was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, voted for by BMJ readers, at the BMJ Group Awards in London.

The award was presented in recognition of his work into the effects of smoking and cancer prevention.

Professor Peto is co-director of the Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Oxford. His research with Professor Sir Richard Doll revealed the long-term dangers of smoking and has influenced the health policies of governments and helped save thousands of lives across the world.

Professor Sir Richard Peto is recognised for his work into the effects of smoking and cancer prevention

Professor Peto was also instrumental in developing the 'meta-analysis' research technique, which is used to combine the results of several different trials in order to provide an overall analysis of their findings. His unit in Oxford runs some of the largest clinical trials in the world and his contributions to improvements in treatments have helped to bring down breast cancer death rates in the UK since the 1980s.

David Scott, director of science funding at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Without Sir Richard's work we wouldn't be equipped with the vital knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer. We now know that smoking causes nine out of ten lung cancers. Giving up smoking is the most important way to cut down your risk of cancer.’

Stella Dutton, chief executive of BMJ Group, presented Professor Peto with his award at a ceremony on 18 May.

‘The BMJ Group calls it a lifetime achievement award, but actually it's an inter-generational award, given for studies over more than 60 years of the causes and the treatment of chronic disease,’ Peto told BMJ. ‘These studies were started by Richard Doll, who brought me with him to Oxford 40 years ago, continued by me and are now being carried forward in new ways by Rory Collins and others in the CTSU.

‘At the UK death rates of 40 years ago just over 1 in 3 would die before age 70, but at current UK death rates just under 1 in 6 will do so. The main reasons that the risk of death before old age has gone down by more than half in the UK over the past 40 years is that lots of people have stopped smoking, and nowadays people at risk of vascular disease are taking drugs that work.’