Division of Cancer Epidemiology

Prof. Dr. Rudolf Kaaks

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Our division studies the causes of cancer in population groups with the aim of identifying and, if possible, avoiding risk factors so as to prevent cancer. Our key focus is on the quantification of risks associated with lifestyle, nutrition and metabolism, and immune factors. In addition, we address the question of how lifestyle may interact with genetic susceptibility factors in cancer development, as well as in cancer survival.

On the basis of established, genetic and non-genetic risk factors, we build quantitative risk models for the identification of individuals who have an increased risk of developing cancer compared to others, and who may gain increased benefit from targeted prevention measures such as regular cancer screening.

A further focus is exploring new routes for prevention and early diagnosis of cancer, as well as quality control of introduced measures. Due to their population-related approach, statistical methods and their further development are of particularly high relevance in epidemiology.

A major part of our research takes place within the setting of large-scale prospective cohort studies, such as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) and the Scandinavian Consortium of Maternity Cohorts. Besides these prospective studies in the general population, our division conducts studies within large cohorts of cancer patients.

Studies within our various prospective cohorts are increasingly making use of modern, high-throughput “omics” technologies (metabolomics, genomics, epigenomics, next-generation sequencing) for the identification of risk factors and predictors for cancer and markers for early detection.
For future studies, our division has a central role in the development and set-up of the “NAKO” – a new, large-scale prospective cohort study in Germany.


Prof. Dr. Rudolf Kaaks
Cancer Epidemiology (C020)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 2200
Fax: +49 6221 42 2203

Selected Publications

  • Barth S. et al. (2015).Treg-mediated immune tolerance and the risk of solid cancers: Findings from EPIC-Heidelberg. J Natl Cancer Inst, 107(11), pii:djv224.
  • Fortner R.T. et al. (2014). Early pregnancy sex steroids and maternal breast cancer: a nested case-control study. Cancer Res, 74(23), 6958-6967.
  • Li K. et al. (2014).Lifestyle risk factors and residual life expectancy at age 40: a German cohort study. BMC Med, 12:59.
  • Nickels S. et al. (2013). Evidence of gene-environment interactions between common breast cancer susceptibility loci and established environmental risk factors. PLoS Genet, 9(3):e1003284.
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