Skip to main content
Katherine Brain

Professor Katherine Brain

Personal Chair

School of Medicine


I am a Professor of Health Psychology with an established track record and international reputation in leading research into behavioural aspects of cancer control. My research expertise involves understanding the determinants of cancer symptom help-seeking behaviour and participation in cancer screening including low dose CT lung screening, and developing and evaluating complex behavioural interventions with a focus on reducing inequalities in cancer outcomes. I lead a programme of research in cancer screening, prevention and early diagnosis within the Division of Population Medicine (School of Medicine) and am Associate Director of the College of Biomedical and Life Sciences Population Health Research Theme. I am UK Chair of the US/UK Multi-Cancer Early Detection Consortium Health Equity workgroup, expert member of the European Code Against Cancer Working Group on Communication and Health Literacy, and advisor to NHS England on the Targeted Lung Health Check programme. 



























Book sections

  • Brain, K. E. 2010. Screening and prevention. In: French, D. et al. eds. Health psychology. 2nd ed.. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp. 220-232.



My main research interests include:

  1. Psychosocial aspects of cancer screening, prevention and early symptom detection – identifying barriers to participation and evaluating the impact of screening, including lung and colorectal.
  2. Reducing inequalities in cancer – understanding the influence of socioeconomic and other inequalities on cancer awareness and behaviour.
  3. Behaviour change and cancer – developing, testing and implementing novel person-centred interventions to encourage earlier symptom presentation and diagnosis, and to support engagement with screening and prevention (including smoking cessation and other risk-reducing behaviours).

I lead a consortium of researchers evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on public awareness and behaviour in relation to cancer symptom presentation, screening and prevention. This large study is funded by the ESRC through UK Research and Innovation's rapid response to COVID-19. The findings are being used to develop clear public health messages encouraging people to act on early signs and symptoms of cancer, to consider taking part in cancer screening and to engage in healthy behaviours. More information can be found at

Current/recent grants include:

  • COVID-19 Cancer Attitudes and Behaviours Study, UK Research and Innovation £689,000 (CI, 2020-2022).
  • Understanding barriers and enablers to use of primary care remote consulting for suspected cancer symptoms among vulnerable populations. North West Cancer Research and Tenovus Cancer Care joint PhD studentship, £75,000 (Co-supervisor, 2022-2025).
  • Primary and Emergency Care Research Centre for Wales (PRIME). Health and Care Research Wales, Welsh Government £4,856,662 (Co-I 2020-2025).
  • Wales Cancer Research Centre. Health and Care Research Wales, Welsh Government £4,500,000 (Collaborator 2020-2025).
  • Targeted Intensive Community-based campaign To Optimise Cancer awareness (TIC TOC): feasibility of a symptom awareness campaign to support the Multidisciplinary/Rapid Diagnostic Centre referral pathway in a socioeconomically deprived area. Cancer Research Wales, £391,331 (Co-PI, 2020-2023).
  • Supporting implementation of NHS England’s Lung Health Check pilot programme. Cancer Research UK Early Diagnosis Advisory Committee, £51,422.68 (Co-I 2020).
  • Factors influencing engagement with emerging technology in colorectal cancer screening and prevention. Tenovus Cancer Care PhD Studentship, £60,000 (Co-supervisor 2019-2022).
  • The effect of adding a personalised smoking cessation intervention to a lung cancer screening programme. Yorkshire Cancer Research, £913,432 (Co-I 2018-2022).
  • Understanding patient delay factors in Vietnam. National Institute for Health, $35,000 Cardiff (Collaborator 2018-2021).
  • Readiness of lung cancer screening services to deliver concurrent smoking cessation treatment: Guideline and implementation toolkit development. CRUK Tobacco Advisory Group, £73,518 (Collaborator 2019-2020).
  • Understanding experience, completion and outcomes of colorectal cancer screening among participants with multi-morbidity. Health and Care Research Wales Fellowship, £388,000 (Dr Stephanie Smits, lead mentor, 2018-2022).
  • Tobacco use and pathways into regular smoking among young adults. Cancer Research UK Population Research Committee Fellowship, £174,559 (Dr Ria Poole, lead mentor, 2017-2020).
  • Engaging high risk, harder to reach groups in lung cancer screening and prevention. School of Medicine PhD studentship, £76,000 (lead supervisor 2017-2020).
  • ABACus randomised controlled trial of the health check intervention to improve cancer symptom awareness and help seeking. Yorkshire Cancer Research, £486,000 (PI 2017-2020).
  • Pharmacy referral for lung symptoms. RfPPB, £299,000 (Co-I 2017-2020).


I am responsible for delivering MBBCh undergraduate medical education including:

  • Case Based Learning
  • Personal Tutoring
  • Intercalated student project supervision and assessment
  • Student Selected Component projects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine 
  • Research in Practice


Employment history:

Professor, Cardiff University (2018-)
Reader, Cardiff University (2014-2018)
Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University (2009-2014)
Lecturer in Cancer Genetics Health Services Research, Cardiff University (2004-2009)
Wellcome Trust Health Services Research Fellow, UWCM (1999-2004)
Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Wales College of Medicine (1996-1999)


Chartered Health Psychologist and registered practitioner (2007); Certificate in Economic Evaluation in Healthcare (2002); PhD Psychology (1996); BA Psychology and Education (1st, 1992).

Honours and awards

  • Moondance Cancer Innovation Award finalist (Public Awareness and Engagement), 2022
  • Nominated for Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity, School of Medicine, 2020
  • Chwarae Teg’s Wonderful Welsh Woman of the Year Award (People’s Choice category) finalist, 2018
  • School of Medicine Dean of Research Excellence STAR Award, 2017
  • School of Medicine Research team award for PRIME, 2017
  • Health and Care Awards Research Impact Award finalist, 2017
  • Cardiff University Research Leave Scheme, 2015-2016

Professional memberships

  • Full member of the British Psychological Society
  • Chartered Health Psychologist and registered practitioner
  • Qualification in Health Psychology (QHP) Stage II registered supervisor

Committees and reviewing

  • UK Deputy Chair of the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Consortium Health Equity workgroup (2022-ongoing)
  • Advisor to NHS England Improvement's evaluation of the Targeted Lung Health Checks (2022-ongoing)
  • International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership Inequalities Network member (2022-ongoing)
  • Professorial member of Cardiff University Senate (2021-ongoing)
  • Cancer Research Strategy for Wales Senior Leadership Group (2021-ongoing)
  • Associate Director of the Population Health theme, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Cardiff University (2020-ongoing)
  • Cancer Research UK Early Detection and Diagnosis Research Committee member (2020-ongoing)
  • Policy Research Unit Scientific Advisory Committee member (2019-)
  • Member of North West Cancer Research Scientific Advisory Committee (2018-2020)
  • Centre for Trials Research Population Health Strategic Advisory Committee member (2018-ongoing)
  • Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity, Division of Population Medicine (2016-2020)
  • Member of Breast Cancer Now Scientific Advisory Committee (2015-2018)
  • Regular peer review for a wide range of funding bodies (e.g. CRUK, NIHR, Yorkshire Cancer Research) and scientific journals (e.g. Thorax, British Journal of Cancer, British Medical Journal, Psycho-Oncology)
  • External PhD examining duties have included University of Nottingham, University of Toronto, University College London and King’s College London
  • Senior academic member of the Wales Cancer Network Detecting Cancer Earlier Programme Board and Cancer Research Strategy for Wales (CReST Cymru) Strategic Oversight Board



I supervise PhD students in behavioural aspects of cancer screening, prevention and early diagnosis. Current and recent PhD students include:

  • Stefanie Disbeschl: Understanding barriers and enablers to use of primary care remote consulting for suspected cancer symptoms among vulnerable populations. Joint funded by North West Cancer Research and Tenovus Cancer Care.
  • Omar Ali: Novel technologies for bowel cancer screening. Funded by Tenovus Cancer Care.
  • Francesa Mazzaschi: What are the cognitive deficits observed in adults with brain cancer receiving radiotherapy or combined chemo-radiotherapy? Funded by Marie Curie.
  • Pamela Smith: Engaging high risk groups in lung cancer screening and prevention. Funded by the School of Medicine.