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.


Learning Objectives

  • Understand cancer statistics and the descriptive epidemiology of cancer;
  • Understand known risk factors and gaps in knowledge for the major cancers;
  • Understand the pathobiology of cancer;
  • Apply epidemiologic methods in the design, conduct, and analysis of cancer research studies;
  • Apply critical thinking in the review of projects and publications in cancer epidemiology;
  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary aspect of cancer including the contributions of basic sciences, clinical medicine, health services research, and the social sciences to the understanding of cancer etiology and progression;
  • Appreciate methods for cancer risk assessment and screening;
  • Appreciate the role and interdisciplinary methods of cancer control and prevention.
  • Appreciate the practical aspects of conducting research in cancer epidemiology


Program Courses

Related Courses

  • 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. Eboneé Butler: North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Study (PCaP), Carolina Breast Cancer Study.

Dr. Marc Emerson : Carolina Breast Cancer Study, Carolina Head and Neck Cancer 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. Jennifer Lund: SEER-Medicare, UNC Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS), and other health care claims databases.

Dr. Hazel Nichols: Carolina Endometrial Cancer Study, UNC Cancer Survivorship Cohort, Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Horizon Study, AYA Valuing Opinions and Insight from Cancer Experiences (VOICE) Study, SEER-linked data.

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. 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. Caroline Thompson : SEER-Medicare, UNC Cancer Information & Population Health Resource (CIPHR), UNC Carolina Data Warehouse for Health (CDW-H), California Teachers Study.

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

Selected Collaborative Groups at UNC

Selected Research Projects

For general questions about the department, the degree program, or admissions, contact us via email at epidemiology@unc.edu or call us at 919-843-6182. Questions about employment should be directed to 919-843-6182.

Main Department Contacts

Academic Coordinators

Mailing Address
Department of Epidemiology
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
135 Dauer Drive
2101 McGavran-Greenberg Hall, CB #7435
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435

Our offices are located on the second floor of McGavran-Greenberg Hall.