Associate Professor of Epidemiology
New Haven, Connecticut
Lifestyle and behavior can influence breast cancer risk and outcomes. Obesity is known to increase the risk of breast cancer in older women and increases the risk of breast cancer recurrence. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that alterations in metabolism and increases in inflammatory molecules due to obesity play a role in this association. Dr. Irwin is conducting research to explore how changes in behavior, such as healthy eating and exercise that lead to weight loss, impact biological processes associated with obesity and quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Her recent studies have shown that weight loss decreases blood-based markers of inflammation that are associated with obesity. Her ongoing work will examine whether weight loss will have similar effects in breast tissue, the first analysis of its kind to date. In a separate study, Dr. Irwin found that exercise decreased joint pain in breast cancer survivors taking an aromatase inhibitor (AI), while increasing weight loss and reducing inflammatory markers. She will continue to study the biological underpinnings of the effect of exercise on AI-induced joint pain, as well as its impact on quality of life, depression, anxiety and sleep, and work to identify genetic factors that may influence one’s adherence to exercise with the goal of developing more personalized lifestyle recommendations.
Melinda L. Irwin, PhD, MPH is an associate 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.