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Melinda L. Irwin , PhD, MPH

Professor, Chronic Disease Epidemiology,
Yale School of Public Health
Deputy Director of Public Health, Yale Center for Clinical Investigation
Associate Director, Population Sciences, Yale Cancer Center
New Haven, Connecticut

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand the biological underpinnings of exercise and weight in breast cancer prevention and outcomes.
  • A clinical study is conducted to examine the effect of a diet and physical activity intervention on biomarkers, body composition, and quality of life.
  • These studies will provide the framework for the development of more personalized lifestyle prescriptions to improve breast cancer outcomes.

Lifestyle factors, such as physical activity, can impact the risk of breast cancer as well as breast cancer outcomes. Dr. Irwin is conducting clinical and laboratory studies to understand the relationship between lifestyle and breast cancer so that more personalized prevention strategies can be developed, which in turn may lead to a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality, while also improving quality of life for breast cancer patients.

Full Research Summary

Obesity increases the risk of breast cancer in older women and increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence. Given that lifestyle and physical activity are most impacted within the first year after a breast cancer diagnosis, intervening soon after diagnosis may have the biggest impact on breast cancer outcomes.

Dr. Irwin's research goals are to advance our understanding of the biological mechanisms mediating the effect of exercise and weight loss on breast cancer prognosis and to develop more personalized lifestyle prescriptions. 

She is conducting a study in women who are newly diagnosed with Stage I-III breast cancer. The study called LEAN-early (LEANer) will compare the effect of a diet and physical activity intervention to usual care on various breast cancer outcomes including pathologic complete response, chemotherapy completion rate, biomarkers in blood, body composition, and quality of life.

In previous BCRF research, Dr. Irwin found that both weight loss and exercise favorably changed biomarkers related to breast cancer, such as C-reactive protein. She also found exercise to improve aromatase inhibitor (AI) side effects in breast cancer survivors taking AIs.

These findings help to explain the mechanisms mediating the effect of weight loss on breast cancer prognosis and may lead to personalized lifestyle prescriptions associated with improved breast cancer survival.


Melinda L. Irwin, PhD, MPH is a tenured professor at the Yale School of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Yale Cancer Center. Dr. Irwin's primary research interests are physical activity, weight and cancer prevention and control. Her breast cancer research focuses on the impact of exercise and weight loss trials on breast tissue and serum biomarkers, as well as the impact of exercise on improving adherence to aromatase inhibitors (AIs) in breast cancer survivors. She is also examining the dissemination of her Lifestyle, Exercise, and Nutrition (LEAN) weight loss intervention in breast cancer survivors via a mail- and video-based intervention. Dr. Irwin is an investigator on the NCI-funded Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Initiative. Dr. Irwin has published extensively on related topics, and has also served on various review and advisory committees for the NCI, American Cancer Society and Livestrong Foundation.

Large Researcher Headshot - Irwin Melinda

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

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