Cancer Epidemiology

Investigating environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors that lead to increased incidence, morbidity and mortality from cancer, and integrate biomarkers into these studies.

Leader: Regina Santella, PhD

Co-Leader: Mary Beth Terry, PhD

The Cancer Epidemiology Program explores how external factors affect cancer risk, and how a person's genes can modify that affect. Risk factors do not inevitably lead to cancer, but increase the chances that any one person will later get it. Quantifying this probabilistic relationship requires large groups of people or tissue samples. Investigators in the Cancer Epidemiology Program work with several large study populations, including those of The Metropolitan New York Breast Cancer Registry, The Long Island Breast Cancer Project, and the Columbia Children's Center for Environmental Health. They also study populations from Taiwan, Israel, and the region of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Researchers often use biomarkers to quantify prior exposure to carcinogens more precisely than less direct measures. To explore genetic factors, they look at variations between individuals of genes that are involved in promoting or impeding cancer. By statistically analyzing cancer rates among large groups of people with well known exposure levels, often with genetic information, the investigators can quantify the effect of both exposures and genetic factors on cancer rates.