Heather Eliassen

Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology

Channing Laboratory
181 Longwood Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02115

The focus of my research is the etiology of breast cancer, with an emphasis on potential preventive factors.  In my investigation of potentially preventive lifestyle factors, I have examined the relations of medications (statins, aspirin and NSAIDs) and lifestyle factors (weight change and physical activity) with breast cancer risk.  My research also utilizes biomarkers to further investigate the mechanisms underlying these associations, including endogenous hormone levels and breast cancer risk among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.  Combining my interests in preventive factors and biomarkers, I have several ongoing investigations into plasma carotenoids, oxidative stress, and breast cancer risk.  In addition, I have explored the determinants of biomarkers, assessing correlations between lifestyle factors and plasma and urinary hormone levels.

Integrating my focus on breast cancer and biomarkers, I serve as the Associate Director of the Nurses’ Health Study II cohort as well as the Associate Director of the BWH/Harvard Cohorts Biorepository.  The Nurses’ Health Studies were established, in 1976 and 1989, to investigate risk and preventive factors for breast cancer.  Approximately one-third of each cohort (~60,000 women) contributed blood and urine specimens, which are stored in our Biorepository.  My primary responsibilities include scientific assistance to investigators utilizing cohort data or incorporating biomarkers into their studies, and overseeing data management of the cohort and the Biorepository.