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Population Science

Our multi-disciplinary department conducts innovative research focused on understanding
cancer risk factors and how to improve the quality of life and survival of people
diagnosed with cancer.

Featured Studies

Shot of a happy family holding hands on a morning walk together

How Our Prospective Cohort Studies Save Lives

Our first prospective cohort provided the first US prospective evidence confirming the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions in men. 

Since then, we've invested in additional large prospective studies, which have continued to provide unique and significant contributions to the global scientific community that have increased our understanding about the risk factors of cancer, including:

  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Diet
  • Physical activity
  • Hormone use
  • Air pollution

Population Science Teams

Our team works together to collect and evaluate comprehensive data from surveys and human biological samples.

The payoff is monumental.

Data from our studies have helped us better identify and understand the role of lifestyle behaviors, medical history, environmental exposures, genetics, metabolomics, and other biological factors on the risk for developing cancer and on survival.

Investing in Research Pays Off

See how. Check out easy-to-understand highlights of recent studies, including ones published by ACS Population Science researchers.

Check out our Cohort Study Supporters, who have contributed gifts towards the overall infrastructure for Population Science cohort studies.

Bald Girl Hugging paper

Our Objectives 

The Population Science Department uses the collective expertise of epidemiologists, biostatisticians, behavioral scientists, research analysts, and study management experts to better understand the behavioral, social, physical, environmental, and societal factors that affect cancer prevention, risk, treatment, and survivorship. 

We do this by comprehensively collecting and evaluating data from surveys and human biological samples, and by employing behavior-change theories. For instance, we:

  • Design, conduct, and analyze large prospective cohort studies such as the Cancer Prevention Studies and VOICES of Black Women.
  • Build and manage a robust biorepository of blood, buccal cells (from the inside of the cheek), urine, stool, saliva, and tumor tissue samples.
  • Identify and assess effective ways to help people change behaviors (such as by quitting smoking or being more active) before and after a cancer diagnosis.

The department has a long history of conducting seminal research on cancer risk factors, resulting in pivotal or landmark studies and insights that influence the direction of future cancer studies from investigators across the world.

Alpa Patel, PhD, leads the department as the Senior Vice President of Population Science, bringing over 20 years of experience at the American Cancer Society.

Glossary for Nonscientists

Featured Term: Epidemiology

The study of the occurrence, distribution, and possible causes of diseases (like cancer) in a group of people.