Faculty Profile

Eva Schernhammer, MD, DrPH

Eva Schernhammer
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Associate Epidemiologist, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Other Affiliation(s)

Adjunct Faculty, Department of Epidemiology, University of Vienna Medical School

See publications


Channing Laboratory
181 Longwood Avenue, 4th Floor, Room 444
Boston, MA 02115

Phone 617 525 4648
Fax 617 525 2008

Email Eva.schernhammer@channing.harvard.edu

Society Memberships

European Society for Medical Oncology
International Society of Cancer Prevention
Society for Epidemiologic Research
American Association for Cancer Research
Society for Research on Biological Rhythms

Research Unit(s)

Research Interests

Major research interests:
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.

As adjunct faculty of the Department of Epidemiology at the Medical University of Vienna, I am engaged in several projects that involve Austrian health data.


Regina Dopfel, 2006-2008
Genevieve Marie Monsees, 2007-present
David Stock, 2008-present

Research Funding

09/01/05- 8/31/11
Effects of Light at Night on the Circadian System in Nurses
This proposal will evaluate light exposure in rotating shift workers based on the recent information on the specific wavelengths that affect melatonin levels in humans, and will relate those measures to the response of their circadian system, as measured by melatonin levels in urine.

Clock Genes, Night Work, and Breast Cancer Risk
We propose to draw on the existing data and DNA samples from the on-going Nurses’ Health Study II to conduct a nested case-control study that evaluates associations of common variants in candidate genes of the circadian clock with breast cancer risk, as well as interactions with night shift work.

A Pilot Trial of Oral Melatonin Supplementation in Breast Cancer Survivors
We propose to conduct a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial of oral melatonin supplementation over six months in 118 healthy survivors of early stage breast cancer without current hormonal therapy use.  We will assess variations in circulating estradiol, insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), and insulin-like growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP-3) levels as potential biomarkers. As secondary outcomes, effects of melatonin on mood, sleep quality, and menopausal symptoms will also be evaluated.  Overlap: None

Interplay Between Sleep, Melatonin, and Mortality in Older Men
Here we propose to evaluate the relationship between clock gene signaling, sleep characteristics, melatonin, and longevity in a prospective follow-up study of elderly men. We will utilize a subcohort of the MrOS main cohort, the MrOS Sleep Cohort, which is comprised of 2,846 men with complete actigraphy, polysomnography, and sleep information and for whom first void morning urine has been collected along with blood for DNA analyses.

Minimizing Cancer Risk in Shift Workers
To newly assess specific aspects of the nurses’ work schedule including types of shift schedules and changes throughout their professional career, and how these relate to breast cancer risk


Selected Publications

Lawson CC, Whelan EA, Lividoti Hibert EN, Spiegelman D, Schernhammer ES,
Rich-Edwards JW. Rotating Shift Work and Menstrual Cycle Characteristics.
Epidemiology. 2011 Feb 28. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 21364464]

Schernhammer ES, Razavi P, Li TY, Qureshi AA, Han J. Rotating Night Shifts and
Risk of Skin Cancer in the Nurses' Health Study.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2011 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 21335547]

Stevens RG, Hansen J, Costa G, Haus E, Kauppinen T, Aronson KJ, Castaño-Vinyals G, Davis S, Frings-Dresen MH, Fritschi L, Kogevinas M, Kogi K, Lie JA, Lowden A, Peplonska B, Pesch B, Pukkala E, Schernhammer E, Travis RC, Vermeulen R, Zheng T, Cogliano V, Straif K. Considerations of circadian impact for defining 'shift work' in cancer studies: IARC Working Group Report. Occup
Environ Med. 2011 Feb;68(2):154-62. Epub 2010 Oct 20. [PMID: 20962033]

Schernhammer ES, Thompson CA. Light at night and health: the perils of rotating shift work.
Occup Environ Med. 2010 Oct 4. [Epub ahead of print] [PMID: 20921271]

Schernhammer ES, Berrino F, Krogh V, Secreto G, Micheli A, Venturelli E, Grioni S, Sempos CT, Cavalleri A, Schünemann HJ, Strano S, Muti P. Urinary 6-Sulphatoxymelatonin levels and risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women: the ORDET cohort.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Mar;19(3):729-37. Epub 2010 Mar 3. [PMID: 20200429]

Forman JP, Curhan GC, Schernhammer ES. Urinary melatonin and risk of incident  hypertension among young women.
J Hypertens. 2010 Mar;28(3):446-51. [PMID:  20090558]

Flynn-Evans EE, Stevens RG, Tabandeh H, Schernhammer ES, Lockley SW. Total visual blindness is protective against breast cancer.
Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1753-6. Epub 2009 Aug 1. [PMID: 19649715]

Viswanathan AN, Schernhammer ES. Circulating melatonin and the risk of breast  and endometrial cancer in women.
Cancer Lett. 2009 Aug 18;281(1):1-7. Epub 2008 Dec 12. Review. [PMID: 19070424; [PMC2735793]

Flynn-Evans EE, Stevens RG, Tabandeh H, Schernhammer ES, Lockley SW. Effect of light perception on menarche in blind women.
Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2009 Jul-Aug;16(4):243-8. [PMID: 19874146]

Brown DL, Feskanich D, Sánchez BN, Rexrode KM, Schernhammer ES, Lisabeth LD.  Rotating night shift work and the risk of ischemic stroke.
Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Jun 1;169(11):1370-7. Epub 2009 Apr 8. [PMID: 19357324]

Feskanich D, Hankinson SE, Schernhammer ES. Nightshift work and fracture risk: the Nurses' Health Study.
Osteoporos Int. 2009 Apr;20(4):537-42. Epub 2008  Sep 3. [PMID: 18766292; [PMC2651998]

Schernhammer ES, Hankinson SE. Urinary melatonin levels and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Nurses' Health Study cohort.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Jan;18(1):74-9. [PMID: 19124483]

Schernhammer ES, Berrino F, Krogh V, Secreto G, Micheli A, Venturelli E, Sieri S, Sempos CT, Cavalleri A, Schünemann HJ, Strano S, Muti P. Urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
J  Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Jun 18;100(12):898-905. Epub 2008 Jun 10. [PMID: 18544743]

Megdal SP, Schernhammer ES. Correlates for poor sleepers in a Los Angeles high school.
Sleep Med. 2007 Dec;9(1):60-3. Epub 2007 Sep 14. [PMID: 17869576]

Viswanathan AN, Hankinson SE, Schernhammer ES. Night shift work and the risk
of endometrial cancer.
Cancer Res. 2007 Nov 1;67(21):10618-22. [PMID: 17975006]

Dopfel RP, Schulmeister K, Schernhammer ES. Nutritional and lifestyle correlates of the cancer-protective hormone melatonin.
Cancer Detect Prev. 2007;31(2):140-8. Epub 2007 Apr 6. Review. [PMID: 17418976]

Pinheiro SP, Schernhammer ES, Tworoger SS, Michels KB. A prospective study on habitual duration of sleep and incidence of breast cancer in a large cohort of women.
Cancer Res. 2006 May 15;66(10):5521-5. [PMID: 16707482]

Schernhammer E, Chen H, Ritz B. Circulating melatonin levels: possible link between Parkinson's disease and cancer risk?
Cancer Causes Control. 2006 May;17(4):577-82. Review. [PMID: 16596313]

Moser M, Schaumberger K, Schernhammer E, Stevens RG. Cancer and rhythm.
Cancer Causes Control. 2006 May;17(4):483-7. [PMID: 16596301]

Chen H, Schernhammer E, Schwarzschild MA, Ascherio A. A prospective study of  night shift work, sleep duration, and risk of Parkinson's disease.
Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr 15;163(8):726-30. Epub 2006 Feb 22. [PMID: 16495472]

Schernhammer ES, Kroenke CH, Dowsett M, Folkerd E, Hankinson SE. Urinary  6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels and their correlations with lifestyle factors and steroid hormone levels.
J Pineal Res. 2006 Mar;40(2):116-24. [PMID: 16441548]

Tworoger SS, Lee S, Schernhammer ES, Grodstein F. The association of self-reported sleep  duration, difficulty sleeping, and snoring with cognitive function in older women.
Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2006 Jan-Mar;20(1):41-8. [PMID: 16493235]

Schernhammer ES, Kroenke CH, Laden F, Hankinson SE. Night work and risk of breast cancer.
Epidemiology. 2006 Jan;17(1):108-11. [PMID: 16357603]

Megdal SP, Kroenke CH, Laden F, Pukkala E, Schernhammer ES. Night work and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Eur J Cancer. 2005 Sep;41(13):2023-32. Review. [PMID: 16084719]

Schernhammer ES, Hankinson SE. Urinary melatonin levels and breast cancer risk.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 Jul 20;97(14):1084-7. [PMID: 16030307]

Stevens RG, Schernhammer E. Epidemiology of urinary melatonin in women and its relation to other hormones and night work.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.  2005 Feb;14(2):551; author reply 551. [PMID: 15734989]

Schernhammer ES, Rosner B, Willett WC, Laden F, Colditz GA, Hankinson SE. Epidemiology of urinary melatonin in women and its relation to other hormones and night work.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Jun;13(6):936-43. [PMID: 15184249]

Patel SR, Ayas NT, Malhotra MR, White DP, Schernhammer ES, Speizer FE, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. A prospective study of sleep duration and mortality risk in women.
Sleep. 2004 May 1;27(3):440-4. [PMID: 15164896]

Schernhammer E, Schulmeister K. Light at night and cancer risk.
Photochem Photobiol. 2004 Apr;79(4):316-8. Review. [PMID: 15137506]

Schernhammer ES, Schulmeister K. Melatonin and cancer risk: does light at night compromise physiologic cancer protection by lowering serum melatonin levels?
Br J Cancer. 2004 Mar 8;90(5):941-3. Review. [PMID: 14997186]

Schernhammer ES, Laden F, Speizer FE, Willett WC, Hunter DJ, Kawachi I, Colditz GA. Rotating night shifts and risk of breast cancer in women participating in the nurses' health study.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001 Oct 17;93(20):1563-8. [PMID: 11604480.]

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