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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award

Area(s) of Focus

Graham A. Colditz, MD, Dr.PH

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

Dr. Colditz continues to evaluate the relation between adolescent diet, activity, other lifestyle factors, and growth in relation to development of benign breast disease, which is an accepted precursor or marker of breast cancer risk. Increasingly evidence points to childhood and adolescent exposures driving risk, particularly for premenopausal breast disease. Dr. Colditz’s team has built on past analyses and now is focused on vegetable protein/fiber intakes. Data show vegetable protein and peanut butter and nut consumption during early adolescence has a strong inverse relation to risk of biopsy confirmed BBD. Higher vegetable protein intake during adolescence may significantly reduce risk and higher vegetable fat intake before menarche may also lower risk of BBD. These findings can have potential to guide prevention studies among adolescents and generate lifelong reduction in breast cancer.

Mid-Year Summary

Dr. Colditz’s team continues to evaluate the relation between childhood and adolescent diet, activity, other lifestyle factors, and growth, in relation to development of benign breast disease, a precursor or marker of breast cancer risk. The researchers have recently reviewed the increasing evidence that points to childhood and adolescent exposures driving risk, particularly for premenopausal breast disease. A manuscript is in review. Building on previous analyses and accumulating data on benign breast lesions, they have completed analysis of childhood and adolescent physical activity showing that decrease in activity through adolescence is related to increased risk of a diagnosis of benign breast disease, a breast cancer precursor. These findings can have potential to guide prevention studies among adolescents and young adult women, and so generate lifelong reductions in breast cancer. The researchers have begun cleaning of data for some 50,000 women screened at Washington University School of Medicine to evaluate the performance of the Rosner-Colditz breast cancer risk model in a diverse population including some 25% African American women.


Dr. Colditz was born in Australia and received his B.Sc. and medical degree from the University of Queensland, Australia, and his M.P.H. and Doctorate in Public Health from Harvard University School of Public Health. In 1990 he was elected a Fellow in the Australian Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

For 25 years, Dr. Colditz was at Harvard University where he served in a number of positions. From 1996-2006 he was principal investigator on the Nurses' Health Study, a longitudinal study established in 1976, of 121,701 nurses, investigating risk factors for major chronic diseases in women. He established and was the founding principal investigator on the Growing Up Today Study relating diet and lifestyle of 16,883 adolescents ages 9 to 14 at entry to their growth and health outcomes. In 1998, he was promoted to full professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Colditz was also associate director of Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School from 2005-2006. He was director of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention at HSPH and within the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center he was deputy associate director for shared resources and leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Program.

With longstanding interest in the causes and prevention of chronic disease, particularly among women, Dr. Colditz has evaluated numerous lifestyle factors, documenting that current use of postmenopausal hormone therapy increases the risk of breast cancer. He has developed statistical models to more accurately classify levels of risk for several cancers. Other areas of his expertise include tobacco and obesity in relation to cancer. He also documented that smoking increases risk of stroke and total mortality among women, and that weight gain increases the risk of diabetes. He has focused extensively on the validation of self-report information for use in large scale epidemiologic studies and refined diet assessment tools for use in public health settings such as WIC. He has devoted much effort to the application of scientific advances in cancer prevention to broader population programs working with the American Cancer Society and the Massachusetts Cancer Control Program. He also developed the website,, to communicate tailored prevention messages to the public.

Dr. Colditz has filled many professional leadership roles. He served as editor-in-chief of the journal Cancer Causes and Control from 1998 to 2006. In 2004, Dr. Colditz was awarded the American Cancer Society-Cissy Hornung Clinical Research Professorship. He has contributed to reports of the Surgeon General on Tobacco and Health, and served on committees of the National Academies of Science addressing Health Effects of exposure to herbicides in Vietnam Veterans (1992-1995 and 1995-1996), and the Committee to Assess Potential Health Effects from Exposure to Pave Paws Low-Level Phased Array Radiofrequency Energy. He also contributed chapters to the report from the National Academy of Science, "Fulfilling the Potential of Cancer Prevention and Early Detection."

He has served on the National Cancer Institute scientific peer review committees; Subcommittee E (program projects) and Subcommittee A (Cancer Center Support Grants); and is currently a member of the Center for Scientific Research EPIC study section. In October 2006 on the basis of professional achievement and his commitment to public health, he was elected to membership of the Institute of Medicine, an independent body that advises the U.S. government on many issues affecting public health.

Dr. Colditz is a highly cited medical researcher. He has edited numerous books on cancer prevention and health promotion, including the Encyclopedia of Cancer in Society.