Professor Dame Valerie Beral (1946–2022)

Valerie Beral Copyright The Royal Society Anne PurkissEmeritus Fellow Professor Dame Valerie Beral died peacefully on Friday 26 August after a year-long illness. Dame Valerie had been a fellow and supporter of the college for more than three decades. She was a Governing Body Fellow of Green College then Green Templeton College until September 2019. Dame Valerie was a world-leading breast cancer epidemiologist and Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology, Nuffield Department of Population Health.

Dame Valerie is remembered in college for her integrity and strong moral compass. She always contributed meaningfully to discussions at Governing Body and wore her reputation lightly. She was loyal to students and junior faculty and supported them as they developed their research careers. At Green Templeton, she made sure that the college was seeking to involve good researchers in our fellowship – not just early career researchers, but also watching out for women who were developing their careers after bringing up families. In addition, of note was her care for Australian students with indigenous origins.

Dame Valerie studied medicine at Sydney University, Australia. After clinical work in Australia, New Guinea and the UK, she spent almost 20 years at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine working in the Department of Epidemiology.

In 1989 she succeeded Sir Richard Doll as the Director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit in Oxford. A major focus of her work was the role of reproductive, hormonal and infectious agents in cancer; she was Principal Investigator for the Million Women Study cohort of women’s health, and led international collaborative studies of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.

Her more recent research was broadly aimed at understanding the major modifiable causes of morbidity and mortality associated with ageing in women, using the wealth of personal data collected from participants in the Million Women study cohort in combination with routinely-collected information on disease outcomes from linked NHS medical records. These studies also included work on the causes of heart attack, stroke and blood clots, osteoporosis, fracture, and dementia. In 2019, Dame Valerie published widely reported research on MHT and breast cancer.

A number of research projects that she instigated over recent years remain in progress, and her influence through this work will continue well into the future.

Our thoughts are with Val’s husband Professor Paul Fine, family and friends at this time. Please let Gillian Cane know if you would like to pass messages or tributes.

More information

Listen to Dame Valerie on BBC Radio 4’s  The Life Scientific in 2013.

Created: 20 September 2022