What We Do

The Cancer Prevention and Survivorship team is part of the Population Science Department. We conduct research to identify risk factors associated with developing cancer and to understand how to improve quality of life and survival after a cancer diagnosis. We do much of this work using our large, longitudinal cohorts the Cancer Prevention Studies (CPS) and Studies of Cancer Survivors (SCS). 

Since 1952, when the first of our cohorts was formed, we’ve enrolled over 2.7 million people who routinely answer surveys and have also provided blood and other biological samples such as tumor tissue samples from after a cancer diagnosis.

Collectively, our Cancer Prevention Studies and Cancer Survivor Studies have provided data for hundreds of scientific publications by our research staff and researchers across the world. Additionally, these studies help inform clinical and public health guidelines, including the American Cancer Society's Nutrition and Physical Activity guidelines.

Data from these 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.

Specifically, we study the influence of:

  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity and sedentary behavior
  • Obesity
  • Health care access and equity
  • Environmental carcinogens
  • Tobacco and tobacco cessation
  • Mental health
  • Social support processes
  • Caregiving and support of caregivers
  • Genomics
  • Metabolomics

Key Terms

  • Epidemiology: The study of the occurrence, distribution, and possible causes of diseases (like cancer) in a group of people.  
  • Prospective Cohort Study: A long, on-going (longitudinal) research study that captures and compares years of data from a group of people (cohort) to learn how specific characteristics or risk factors affect the rate of developing diseases such as cancer.  Prospective means data is collected before anyone has developed cancer. Cohort studies are a type of observational study.
  • Observational study: When researchers observe the effect of a risk factor, diagnostic test, treatment, or other intervention without trying to change who is or isn't exposed to it. 
  • Experimental study: When researchers introduce an intervention and study the effects. Randomized controlled trials are a type of experimental study.
  • Human Genomics: The study of a person’s genome—a complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Metabolomics: The study of small molecules, called metabolites, that are made and stored when the body breaks down food, drugs, or its own tissue and that are affected by the environment and diseases like cancer.

Our Cancer Prevention and Survivorship Work

The data we collect from our longitudinal studies helps answer important questions about the causes of cancer, how to help prevent it, and how to help people survive their cancers to lead long and healthy lives.