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Graham A. Colditz, DrPH, MD, MPH

Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery and Professor of Medicine
Chief, Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery
Associate Director Prevention and Control
Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center
Deputy Director, Institute for Public Health
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Missouri

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand how early life behaviors influence future breast cancer risk.
  • Studies are ongoing to analyze components of diet in relation to markers of breast cancer risk.
  • These studies may lead to targeted interventions and health promotion in young adults to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Up to 30 percent of breast cancers could be prevented by lifestyle choices, particularly those that support a healthy weight, i.e. diet and exercise. The choices we make as teenagers and young adults can also have long-term impact on breast cancer risk. Dr. Colditz studies the effects of early life exposures to diet, alcohol, exercise and sleep on future risk of breast cancer.

Full Research Summary

Dr. Colditz specializes in studies on childhood and adolescent lifestyle and growth, combining these with insights on breast development to identify potential prevention strategies to reduce breast cancer risk starting early in life.

This year, the group will focus on components of diet during adolescence and early adulthood that might counter the adverse effects of alcohol intake on breast cancer risk. They will also assess the relation between sleep during adolescence and risk of subsequent benign lesions.

Findings from this work could provide new evidence of the importance of lifestyle choices during adolescence on future breast cancer risk.


Dr. Colditz is an epidemiologist and public health expert with a longstanding interest in the causes and prevention of chronic disease, particularly among women. With a commitment to identifying strategies for prevention of breast cancer, Dr. Colditz studies benign breast disease and other markers for risk of breast cancer. Dr. Colditz described the increase in risk of breast cancer with use of combined estrogen plus progestin therapy and a significant increase in risk with increasing duration of use. Mortality from breast cancer was also elevated among current users (NEJM 1995). These data were confirmed by the WHI. He documented in prospective data the importance of proliferative benign lesions and risk of subsequent breast cancer (JAMA 1992; NEJM 1999) and the potential for childhood and adolescent diet, alcohol, and adiposity to modify risk of premalignant and invasive breast cancers. His research continues to focus on this time period in women’s lives and prevention of breast cancer. He is among the most highly cited medical researchers in the world.

Dr. Colditz developed the award-winning Your Disease Risk website ( which communicates tailored prevention messages to the public. He has published over 900 peer-reviewed publications, six books and contributed to reports for the Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Science.

Dr. Colditz has served in numerous leadership roles. He was the editor-in-chief of the journal Cancer Causes and Control and has contributed to reports of the Surgeon General on Tobacco and Health. In October 2006, on the basis of professional achievement and commitment to public health, Dr. Colditz was elected to membership of the Institute of Medicine, an independent body that advises the U.S. government on issues affecting public health. He received the ACS Medal of Honor in 2011, the AACR-AACS award in 2012, and the ACSO-ACS award in 2014, all recognizing his research in cancer prevention and control.

Grid Researcher Headshot - Colditz G

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award (a division of ascena retail group inc.)

Area(s) of Focus