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Eva S. Schernhammer, MD, DrPH
Lecturer on Medicine, Part-time, Harvard Medical School

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Department of Medicine
Channing Division of Network Medicine
75 Francis Street
Boston, MA 02115

Research Location: Boston Lying-In

Research Email:

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Research Narrative:

1. Epidemiology of chronic diseases – etiology of cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases 2. Circadian phase: melatonin / cortisol as biomarkers for cancer risk 3. Shift work: light exposure and the etiology of cancer 4. Breast cancer: biomarkers, gene-environment interactions, and prevention
My research focuses on the influence of lifestyle as well as gene-environment interactions in the context of chronic diseases. These include a variety of cancers such as breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer, as well as neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease and its relation with cancer etiology, to further understand biological mechanisms in carcinogenesis. My research is primarily based in the Harvard cohorts, including the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
A major interest of mine relates to the influence of the circadian system on chronic diseases and longevity in humans. I study shift work as a surrogate for exposure to light at night including related biomarkers for cancer risk and healthy aging. This work has led to the establishment of a new classification of shift work as a probable human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. To translate findings from these studies to cancer prevention strategies I conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of melatonin supplementation in breast cancer survivors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Because clock genes appear to influence circadian behavior in humans, I am also studying clock gene variants, their association with breast cancer risk and potential interactions of these associations with night shift work. In future work, we plan to examine the effect of circadian misalignment (assessed as variations in circadian rhythm and melatonin metabolism genes, melatonin secretion, shift work history, and sleep duration) on cardiovascular disease pathways (e.g., markers of inflammation, glucose and lipid metabolism and thrombosis) and related endpoints.
Another research focus has been to study pathways of indicators of energy balance including IGFs with respect to breast cancer risk. Moreover, I am interested in the etiology and prevention of gastrointestinal tumors, including the chemopreventive effects of COX-2 inhibitors and methyl donors on cancer risk. More recently I have become interested in studying Parkinson’s disease and its relation with cancer etiology, to further understand biological mechanisms in the development of cancer in humans.

Harvard School of Public Health, 2003, DrPH
University of Vienna, 2003, MSc
Harvard School of Public Health , 2000, MPH
Medical University of Vienna , 1992, MD