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Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch

Identifying workplace and environmental exposures associated with cancer risk

The Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch (OEEB) conducts studies in the United States and abroad to identify and evaluate environmental and workplace exposures that may be associated with cancer risk. 

Research Mission

OEEB's mission is to combine epidemiology, quantitative exposure assessment, and molecular components into multi-disciplinary studies to provide insight into cancer etiology, chemical carcinogenesis, and mechanisms of action. Our main research areas include:

  • Industrial and Occupational Exposures
  • Environmental Exposures
  • Occupational and Environmental Cancer among Women
  • Exposure Assessment Methods

Read more about OEEB's research areas and activities.


Training opportunities for junior investigators include planning new projects, participating in ongoing investigations, and analyzing data from studies whose field work is completed. Pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellows are mentored by senior investigators in the Branch. Meet our current OEEB fellows and find out about research training opportunities.


The breadth of our occupational, environmental, and other risk factor research offers many possibilities for collaboration with investigators at other government agencies, domestic and international institutions, and academia, as well as training opportunities for young scientists. Collaborations are underway in 30 states and Puerto Rico in the U.S., as well as 24 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.  

Tools and Resources

Investigators in OEEB are also engaged in developing innovative tools and approaches for assessing carcinogenic risks from occupational and environmental exposures.  Find out more about OEEB tools and resources.

Research Highlight

Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study

Heavy exposure to diesel exhaust was linked to lung cancer mortality in miners from a 20-year study led by OEEB and NIOSH. "This landmark study has informed on the lung cancer risks for underground mine workers, but the findings suggest that the risks may extend to other workers exposed to diesel exhaust in the United States and abroad, and to people living in urban areas where diesel exhaust levels are elevated," said Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., former DCEG Director. The research, all part of the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study, was designed to evaluate cancer risk from diesel exhaust, particularly as it may relate to lung cancer, among 12,315 workers at eight non-metal mining facilities. "It was vitally important to undertake a large study of diesel exhaust and lung cancer based on a quantitative assessment of historical exposure, taking into account smoking and other potentially relevant factors in order to estimate lung cancer risk," said lead author of the case-control study, Debra T. Silverman, Sc.D., OEEB Chief.

For more information, please see the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study webpage.

Pesticide image credit: K. Weller, USDA ARS,

OEEB Highlights

A genome-wide association study led by Qing Lan, M.D., Ph.D. identified three genetic regions that predispose never-smoking Asian women to lung cancer, providing evidence that lung cancer among never smokers may be associated with unique inherited genetic characteristics that distinguish it from lung cancer in smokers. Genome-wide association analysis identifies new lung cancer susceptibility loci in never-smoking women in Asia. Nat Genet 2012; 44:1330-5.

In August, the 24th Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology held a symposium on "Diesel Exhaust and Lung Cancer: Findings from the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study."

Barone-Adesi F, Chapman RS, Silverman DT, He X, Hu W, Vermeulen R, Ning B, Fraumeni JF Jr, Rothman N, Lan Q. Risk of lung cancer associated with domestic use of coal in Xuanwei, China: Retrospective cohort study. BMJ 2012;345:e5414