Susan E. Hankinson

Susan Hankinson
438 Arnold House


B.S., University of Southern Maine, 1979; M.S., University of Minnesota, 1985; M.P.H., University of Minnesota, 1986; Sc.D., Harvard University, 1992

Area(s) of Specialization: 

Breast cancer, prevention, hormones, biomarkers, and women’s health

Research Description: 

My research addresses the role of endogenous hormones in the etiology of breast cancer in women, including determining the lifestyle and genetic factors that influence hormone levels. This focus reflects a broad interest in the application of biomarkers in epidemiologic research. Much of my research has been conducted with the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) cohorts, where I am a senior investigator. I have conducted projects to evaluate the role of endogenous hormones and nutritional factors in breast cancer etiology in postmenopausal women. This work has helped establish circulating sex steroids and prolactin as independent predictors of risk in postmenopausal women; projects are now ongoing to evaluate if these markers can be used to improve breast cancer risk prediction models, which in turn could help guide screening and chemoprevention recommendations. I also am leading several projects assessing plasma and urinary markers that predict risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women – both to identify new biologic pathways and again to improve individual breast cancer risk prediction. Other current interests include evaluating stress markers, risk factors by breast cancer subtype, and incorporating tissue molecular characteristics into my research.

Key Publications: 

Plasma 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Breast Cancer in Women Followed over 20 Years. Eliassen AH, Warner ET, Rosner B, Collins LC, Beck AH, Quintana LM, Tamimi RM, Hankinson SE. Cancer Res 2016 Sep 15;76(18):5423-30.

Inclusion of endogenous hormone levels in risk prediction models of postmenopausal breast cancer.  Tworoger SS, Zhang X, Eliassen AH, Qian J, Colditz GA, Willett WC, Rosner BA, Kraft P, Hankinson SE.  J Clin Oncol. 2014 Oct 1;32(28):3111-7.

A 20-year prospective study of plasma prolactin as a risk marker of breast cancer development. Tworoger SS, Eliassen AH, Zhang X, Qian J, Sluss PM, Rosner BA, Hankinson SE. Cancer Res. 2013 Aug 1;73(15):4810-9.

Circulating carotenoids and risk of breast cancer: pooled analysis of eight prospective studies. Eliassen AH, Hendrickson SJ, Brinton LA, Buring JE, Campos H, Dai Q, Dorgan JF, Franke AA, Gao YT, Goodman MT, Hallmans G, Helzlsouer KJ, Hoffman-Bolton J, Hultén K, Sesso HD, Sowell AL, Tamimi RM, Toniolo P, Wilkens LR, Winkvist A, Zeleniuch-Jacquotte A, Zheng W, Hankinson SE. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Dec 19;104(24):1905-16.

Urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites and subsequent risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women. Eliassen AH, Spiegelman D, Xu X, Keefer LK, Veenstra TD, Barbieri RL, Willett WC, Hankinson SE*, Ziegler RG*. Cancer Res. 2012 Feb 1;72(3):696-706. Epub 2011 Dec 5. PMID: 22144471 *Co-last authors

Adult weight change and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Eliassen AH, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Willett WC, Hankinson SE. JAMA. 2006 Jul 12;296(2):193-201. PMID: 16835425 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]