Cancer Epidemiology

The complexity of cancer requires a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses studies of cancer etiology, prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship.  EpiCH is uniquely poised to study the full range of cancer research questions.Our division faculty brings a diversity of methods expertise including traditional epidemiology, decision modeling, and molecular biology. We actively collaborate with scientists across the University including Pediatrics, Environmental Health, Nutrition, and Health Policy and Management.

Research Focus

Skin cancer
– Tanning bed behavior and melanoma risk
– Genetic susceptibility
– Molecular pathology
– Survivorship

Pancreatic cancer
– Meat-borne carcinogens
– Molecular epidemiology

Decision modeling
– HPV screening

Tobacco-related cancers
– Chemoprevention
– Epigenetics
– Gene-environment interactions


Training Grants

Research Fellowship in Nutrition and Cancer
Pediatric Cancer Epidemiology Training Grant
Cancer Biology Training Grant
Musculoskeletal Training Program


Core EpiCH Faculty
Kristin Anderson
Shalini Kulasingam
DeAnn Lazovich
Heather Nelson
Kim Robien


Adjunct / Associated Faculty
Bruce Alexander
Sally Bushhouse
Timothy Church
Myron Gross
Jenny N. Poynter
Julie Ross
Logan Spector
Beth Virning

More Information

EpiCH Cancer Epi Resource Guide
Includes information about faculty, resources, relevant meetings, journals, data resources, tips on publishing and job hunting, and more.

Highlighted Projects

Iowa Womens Health Study (IWHS)

Investigator:  Kim Robien
A cohort study of mortality and cancer risk in 42,000 postmenopausal Iowa women (includes dietary data, body fat distribution and other lifestyle characteristics).

Skin Health Study

Principal Investigator: DeAnn Lazovich
Investigators: Kristin Anderson, Ph.D., Marianne Berwick, Ph.D, Martin Weinstock, M.D., Ph.D., Erin Warshaw, M.D., M.S.

We conducted a population-based case-control study, the Skin Health Study, to examine risk factors for melanoma, in particular indoor tanning use and use of sunscreen or other sun protection methods. Additional exposures included anthropometric characteristics, use of certain drugs (e.g., NSAIDs), and vitamin D. A total of 1167 cases and 1101 controls were enrolled. Buccal cells were collected to investigate the role of DNA repair capacity, measured by polymorphic variants in the base excision repair and nucleotide excision repair pathways. Analyses are ongoing.

Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial

Investigator:  Timothy Church
This is a multicenter randomized clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. The study is testing the effectiveness of early prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer detection with:

  1. digital rectal examination and blood prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing,
  2. chest x-ray,
  3. 60-cm flexible sigmoidoscopy, and
  4. transvaginal ultrasound, blood cancer antigen (CA)-125 testing, respectively, versus usual care.

Ten PLCO screening centers participated. Beginning in November 1993 and ending in July 2001, the PLCO trial enrolled men and women 55-74 years of age who had no prior history of prostate, lung, colorectal, or ovarian cancer. Over 154,000 men and women were enrolled and randomized to control and screening intervention groups. A baseline questionnaire was given. Serial blood samples have been collected from screening arm participants (77,000) while buccal cell samples have been collected from the control arm of the trial.

The Home HPV or Pap Examination (HOPE) study

Principal Investigator: Shalini L. Kulasingam

The aim of this randomized clinical trial is to improve the way we screen women to find those who have, or who are at risk of developing, cervical cancer or precancer. In particular, women will be randomized to either 1) screening using a self-collected vaginal swab at home, that is mailed in to the laboratory for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) testing or 2) to our current approach to screening which uses Pap tests collected by a healthcare worker in a clinic setting. The goal is to compare these two strategies in terms of detecting disease, cost effectiveness and acceptability.

Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Study (ARIC)

Investigator:  Aaron Folsom
Over the past 20 years, the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities (ARIC) Study has provided important new information on risk factors for atherosclerosis and its progression, on risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke, and on trends in community rates of cardiovascular disease. It includes virtually every cardiovascular risk factor, measures of carotid atherosclerosis, etc. on 15,800 people.  Cancer outcome data is also available.