AACR Honors Dr. Graham Colditz' Research In Cancer Prevention

Issue 25 Summer/Fall 2015

For the second time in recent years, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has given one of its highest awards to Dr. Graham Colditz for his work in cancer prevention research.

Colditz received the 2014 AACR-Prevent Cancer Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research for his “seminal contributions to the field of cancer prevention,” the organization said in a news release.

In 2012, his groundbreaking work in the area of breast cancer risk factors and prevention was recognized by the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention.

Colditz is currently Niess-Gain professor of surgery, professor of medicine, and associate director of prevention and control at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at the Barnes- Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is also chief of the school’s Division of Public Health Sciences and deputy director of its Institute of Public Health.

Beginning soon after receiving his doctorate from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1986, Colditz helped lead the highly influential Nurses’ Health Study, which he led for the next two decades.

During that time, the work of Colditz and his colleagues helped confirm that proliferative, benign lesions in breast tissue were strong predictors of breast cancer risk, and that longterm use of estrogen-plus-progestin hormone replacement therapy can raise a woman's odds for breast cancer.

Other highlights of Colditz’ work in breast cancer prevention include the discovery that weight control after menopause reduces a woman's risk for the disease, and that certain behaviors begun in adolescence – drinking, lack of exercise and diet – can affect long-term breast cancer risk.

"We used to focus on diet, activity and weight in the year or two before the patient was diagnosed," Colditz told Cancer Prevention. "But we now know that the process spans decades. More recently, we've started to examine what I would call the more appropriate time frame for looking at lifestyle and habits – adolescence and early adult years – 20 years or more before diagnosis."

But Colditz’ work extends beyond breast cancer. He has also uncovered key insights into how tobacco use and obesity affect cancer risk in general, and how public policies might influence that relationship – for good or ill.

Prior to joining Washington University in St. Louis, Colditz, a native of Australia, had served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is the recipient of numerous other honors and awards, including the America Cancer Society Medal of Honor and membership in the Institute of Medicine.