Current projections indicate that the burden of cancer will increase from 10 million new cases globally in 2000, to 15 million in 2020. This public health burden will necessitate further research into the etiology and prevention of cancer. The primary goal of the Cancer Epidemiology Program is to develop new knowledge relevant to cancer etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, and prevention using interdisciplinary and epidemiologic approaches. The cancer epidemiology faculty have developed a rich research program including diverse cancers (breast, prostate, colon, head and neck, childhood, melanoma, esophageal, and bladder) and exposures (lifestyle, diet, genes, tumor biology, occupational and environmental, health care, screening, socioeconomic factors). Research spans etiology, survivorship, comparative effectiveness, and access to health care, with many studies emphasizing health disparities, especially among African-Americans. Several population-based studies in North Carolina have yielded high impact findings and contribute to large international consortia. Students in the cancer epidemiology program receive training in epidemiologic methods, biostatistics, related substantive areas, and cancer biology. Outside the classroom, students obtain an appreciation for interdisciplinary, collaborative research by working with diverse and strong faculty in the department, school, and Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.



  • EPID 772: Cancer Prevention and Control
  • PATH 225: Cancer Pathology
  • EPID 742: Integrating Biomarkers into Population-Based Research
  • EPID 743: Genetic Epidemiology
  • EPID 745: Molecular Techniques for Public Health Research
  • EPID 785: Environmental Epidemiology
  • EPID 815: Diet and Cancer
  • EPID 826 Introduction to Social Epidemiology

Core Faculty – Research Projects

Dr. Jeannette Bensen: North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Study (PCaP), Carolina Breast Cancer Study, and UNC Cancer Survivorship Cohort.

Dr. Kathleen Conway-Dorsey: Genes, Environment and Melanoma (GEM) study,  Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS), I-SPY InterSPORE Breast Cancer Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Trial, Mayo Clinic Benign Breast Disease study, and Carolina Head and Neck Cancer CHANCE) Study.

Dr. Lawrence S. Engel: GuLF STUDY, and an international study examining blood levels of organochlorines and aflatoxin adducts in relation to risk of primary liver cancer.

Dr. Marilie D. Gammon: Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, Barrett’s and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium (BEACON).

Dr. Jennifer Lund: SEER-Medicare, UNC Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS), and other health care claims databases.

Dr. Hazel Nichols: Collaborative Breast Cancer Study, National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences Sister Study, the Cancer Research Network, and the UNC Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS).

Dr. Andrew Olshan: Carolina Head and Neck Cancer Study (CHANCE), Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS), and NENA childhood neuroblastoma study.

Dr. Charles Poole: Epidemiologic methods in cancer epidemiology.

Dr. David B. Richardson: Studies of cancer among nuclear workers at several U.S. Department of Energy facilities, cancer among the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Dr. Whitney Robinson: Carolina Breast Cancer Study.

Dr. Robert S. Sandler: North Carolina Colon Cancer Study, North Carolina Colorectal Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance (CanCORS) study, an NCI initiative to investigate the impact of cancer care processes on outcomes.

Dr. Jennifer Smith: Cervical Cancer-Free Coalition, international studies of HPV and cervical disease.

Dr. Til Stürmer: SEER-Medicare, UNC Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS), and other health care claims databases.

Dr. Melissa Troester: Carolina Breast Cancer Study, Normal Breast Study.

Selected Collaborative Groups at UNC

Selected Research Projects