Sarah C Darby is a statistical epidemiologist who has formulated and studied several questions regarding the impact of ionising radiation on human health. She studied Mathematics (BSc) at Imperial College London, Mathematical Statistics (MSc) at the University of Birmingham, and Medical Statistics (PhD) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, graduating in 1977. She then worked at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, the National Radiological Protection Board, and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, before moving to the University of Oxford in 1984. Her major funder since then has been Cancer Research UK.
Sarah and her team have demonstrated that there is a linear relationship between the dose of radiation delivered incidentally to the heart during breast cancer radiotherapy and the subsequent risk of ischaemic heart disease, and that the absolute size of the radiation-related risk is bigger for women already at increased risk of heart disease.
She and her team have also estimated the absolute size of the benefit of radiotherapy to breast cancer patients and their work is enabling comparison of the likely absolute benefit of radiotherapy with its likely absolute risk for individual patients. Therefore it is now becoming possible to assess which patients can receive standard radiotherapy, which should be considered for advanced techniques, and which should avoid radiotherapy altogether.
Other topics that Sarah has worked on include estimating the risk of lung cancer from residential radon, the risk of invasive breast cancer after a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ, and the risk of cancer after computerised tomography scans in young people.
Professor of Medical Statistics, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford