Michael J. Thun, MD, MS
Vice President, Emeritus
Surveillance and Epidemiology Research
Dr. Thun received his BA degree from Harvard College in 1970, an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1975, and has an MS in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1983. Dr. Thun has worked for 30 years in epidemiology and disease prevention, first as a Medical Officer at the New Jersey State Health Department investigating toxic exposures (1978-80), then as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and staff scientist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (1980-1988), and later as Director of Analytic Epidemiology for the American Cancer Society (1989-1998), Vice President of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research (1998-2008); and currently as the Vice President, Emeritus of Surveillance and Epidemiology Research (2008 to present).
Dr. Thun’s research interests cover a wide range of issues, including studies on the potential of aspirin as an anti-cancer agent, alcohol, obesity, the effects of active smoking and environmental tobacco smoke, genetic and environmental risk factors for cancer, and cancer trends. The common theme that underlies this research is the application of the tools of epidemiology to inform cancer control. Dr. Thun’s studies of aspirin use in relation to reduced risk of colon cancer and other gastrointestinal malignancies in the early 1990s helped to motivate a resurgence of interest in the field of inflammation and cancer. A series of publications with other researchers at ACS, beginning in the mid-1990s documented a large increase in lung cancer risk among cigarette smokers during the decades when cigarettes were promoted as having progressively lower yields of tar and nicotine, based on measurements from smoking machines. A publication coauthored with Dr. Jeffrey Harris in 2004 documented that smokers who smoked cigarette brands labeled as “Light” or “Ultralight” had the same lung cancer risk as smokers of filtertip cigarettes with higher “tar” yields. Because of this finding and other biomarker studies, the Federal Trade Commission withdrew its approval of machine measured smoking as a valid indicator of risk to smokers, and the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of the terms “Light” and “Mild”. Other influential publications coauthored with Dr. Eugenia E. Calle, Dr. June Stevens and other colleagues have examined the risks of being overweight or obese for all cause mortality and highlighted the relationship between obesity and certain cancers.
Dr. Thun has authored or coauthored over 350 peer-reviewed publications, books, book chapters and published proceedings. He has served on numerous advisory groups for the IOM WHO, IARC, NRC, NCI, and CDC, and is an adjunct professor at Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health and the Winship Cancer Center.
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