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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Radiation Epidemiology Branch: Tenure-Track Spotlight

Elizabeth Cahoon

Elizabeth Cahoon, Ph.D., studies cancer and precancer risks conferred by environmental sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and ionizing radiation exposure. Her research currently focuses on the influence of external factors, such as photosensitizing medications, to skin sensitivity to sunlight. In a nationwide occupational cohort of U.S. radiological technologists, Dr. Cahoon found significantly increased risks of basal cell carcinoma for several photosensitizing agents, including prescription diuretics and menopausal hormone therapy. She has initiated several studies of photosensitizing medications in relation to melanoma in the NIH-AARP cohort and keratinocyte carcinomas in Medicare. She is also evaluating the UV radiation dose-response relationship for skin cancer risks by wavelength, age at exposure, and anatomic site.

Dr. Cahoon also investigates whether ionizing radiation in environmentally exposed populations is related to several outcomes that have been little studied (e.g., precancers, histological subtypes) and whether radiation-related risks are modified by factors for which there are limited data (e.g., age at exposure). Part of this effort involves the assessment of radiation-related risk for various cancers in the Lifespan Study of Japanese atomic bomb survivors. Through a collaboration with the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine in Ukraine, she is also leading a thyroid cancer case-control study nested in a cohort of emergency clean-up workers who were exposed to a wide range of external radiation doses at the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

Dr. Cahoon received her B.S.E. in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania, S.M. from the Engineering Systems Division at MIT, and M.H.S. in biostatistics and Ph.D. in environmental epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She conducted her postdoctoral work in REB and was promoted to research fellow in 2014. In early 2017, Dr. Cahoon was selected through a highly competitive process at NIH as an Earl Stadtman Tenure-track Investigator, an extremely prestigious distinction for her innovative approach to epidemiologic research in environmental radiation.