Skip to Content
Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Louise A. Brinton, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Scientific Advisor for International Activities

Information for Journalists

To request an interview with a DCEG investigator, contact the NCI Office of Media Relations:


Phone: 301-496-6641

Louise A. Brinton, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Louise A. Brinton, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Organization:National Cancer Institute
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics
Address:NCI Shady Grove
Room 7E102


After receiving an M.P.H. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Brinton joined the NCI as a staff fellow in 1976. She earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology from The Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1979, and subsequently conducted postdoctoral research at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Dr. Brinton was appointed Acting Chief of the Environmental Studies Section in 1984, and in 1996 became Chief of the Environmental Epidemiology Branch (later called the Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch). She served on the Executive Board of the Society for Epidemiologic Research, and was elected president of the organization in 1990. Dr. Brinton has received the PHS Special Recognition Award and the NIH Director's Award for innovative leadership in women's health research. She has also been honored by receipt of the H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina and the American College of Epidemiology’s Abraham Lilienfeld Award and the 2015 Society for Epidemiologic Research Career Accomplishment Award.

Research Interests

Dr. Brinton’s research focuses on the epidemiology of breast (both female and male), endometrial and ovarian malignancies. She has had a special interest in defining the role of both endogenous and exogenous hormones in these cancers and in addressing etiologic heterogeneity within the tumors. In addition, she has collaborated on a number of projects to identify biomarkers (including genetic markers) for these malignancies.

Etiologic Heterogeneity

For all three of these cancers there is increasing recognition of significant etiologic heterogeneity, with risk factors that operate distinctly within tumor subgroups. For breast and ovarian cancer, she has been instrumental in showing differences by tumor histology. For endometrial cancer, several of her efforts have led to a further understanding of the distinctiveness of type I vs. II tumors, with revelations that there may be additional heterogeneity even within these sub-classifications.

Endogenous Hormones and Cancer Risk

Dr. Brinton is taking advantage of a newly developed mass spectrometry assay that measures 15 estrogen metabolites to expand her work in hormonal carcinogenesis within two large cohorts for which she is responsible—the Columbia, Missouri Serum Bank Follow-up Study and the Bone Density Follow-up of the Fracture Intervention Trial (B~FIT). This work has provided some indication that more extensive hydroxylation of estrogens may lead to reduced breast cancer risk, and that this pathway may play a role in mammographic density, one of the strongest identified risk factors for breast cancer. She is currently involved with assessing the relationships of these metabolites to endometrial and ovarian cancers within the Women’s Health Initiative.

Male Breast Cancer

In addition to female breast cancers, Dr. Brinton is interested in defining the epidemiology of rarer male breast cancers. A pooling project of male breast cancers that she initiated demonstrated the importance of hormonal factors in the etiology of the disease. Estrogen and androgen assays conducted using pre-diagnostic samples have shown strong effects on risk of estradiol levels, similar to what has previously been observed for female breast cancer.

Exogenous Hormones and Cancer Risk

Dr. Brinton has sought to elucidate risks related to endometrial and ovarian cancers, with a particular emphasis on clarifying these relationships according to regimen of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) use.

Dr. Brinton has also evaluated the long-term effects of fertility drugs. She has overseen a large follow-up study of infertile women in the U.S., and has established collaborations with investigators in Israel and Norway to assess effects of newer preparations involved with in vitro fertilization.

Breast Cancer in African Women

Dr. Brinton’s most recent research endeavor is a large multidisciplinary case-control study in Ghana to better understand breast cancer occurrence in African women. Learn more about the Ghana Breast Health Study.

Back to top