Types of health research

There are three main types of health research: population research, laboratory research and clinical research. People affected by cancer mainly take part in clinical research.

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Population research

Population research is also known as epidemiology. It studies the causes and effects of diseases in groups of people (populations).

Scientists working in this field are called epidemiologists. They look for reasons that people get sick and also compare the health of different groups of people. Their findings often lead to recommendations for ways to reduce disease.


Laboratory research

Scientists conduct laboratory experiments with the building blocks of disease to try to understand how it works. They study cells, enzymes and DNA from humans and animals, or disease-causing agents such as chemicals, bacteria and viruses. Scientists also study and develop new drugs in the laboratory.

Laboratory research is often the starting point for clinical research.


Clinical research

This focuses on the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness in people. It is usually carried out in a clinical setting such as a hospital or outpatient clinic, and it often requires patient participation.

Clinical research includes clinical trials that test new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases.


This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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