Photo of Yin Cao,  ScD

Yin Cao, ScD

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital
Phone: (617) 415-3586

Yin Cao, ScD

Massachusetts General Hospital


  • Instructor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Assistant in Epidemiology, Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Abstract

I am a cancer epidemiologist and junior investigator with broad interest in lifestyle, medication, and genetic factors that are related to the early detection, prevention and prognosis of major cancers. Cancer risk prediction modeling is one of my research focuses. I developed an absolute risk assessment tool for advanced colorectal adenoma that incorporated age, family history, and lifestyle factors, which can be used to provide guidance regarding individual/population strategies for colorectal cancer screening (Int J Cancer, 2015). I also built a risk prediction model of breast cancer under age 50 to help stratify risk among younger women who are not covered by routine mammography (Submitted).

Cancer chemoprevention is another theme of my research. I led analysis to examine the full constellation of potential benefits of long-term aspirin use in total cancer prevention in two large prospective studies (JAMA Oncol, 2016). I also investigated the role of host immunity in mediating the chemopreventive benefits of aspirin in colorectal cancer (Gastroenterology, 2016). In my pending NCI K07 Career Development Award, I will examine the benefits and risks of daily low-dose aspirin use in a large randomized trial among the elderly, and recalibrate the net benefits of aspirin use according to screening, and predicted cancer risk using clinical, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors. The award will help me extend expertise in cancer epidemiology to health outcomes research and decision sciences.

I also had research experience in diet, microbiome, and genetic risk factors for cancer. For example, my work on light to moderate alcohol intake and total cancer incidence (BMJ, 2015) elucidated the long confounded effects of alcohol on cancer by smoking history, and would convey important public health message on the appropriate level of drinking. Utilizing data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium and advanced statistical methods, I demonstrated that IGF pathway was significantly associated with prostate cancer mortality (J Natl Cancer Inst., 2014). Recently, we also identified the roles of antibiotics (Gut, 2017) and microbiome in colorectal carcinogenesis (Gut, 2016; JAMA Oncol., 2017).

Moving forward, I will continue work in risk prediction, chemoprevention, and lifestyle risk factors for cancers, with a particular focus on colorectal cancer and young-onset colorectal cancer. I will also utilize molecular, genomic, and metabolomic technologies as well as tools in health outcomes research, to develop personalized cancer prevention and early detection strategies.


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  • Liu L, Nishihara R, Qian ZR, Tabung FK, Nevo D, Zhang X, Song M, Cao Y, Mima K, Masugi Y, Shi Y, da Silva A, Twombly T, Gu M, Li W, Hamada T, Kosumi K, Inamura K, Nowak JA, Drew DA, Lochhead P, Nosho K, Wu K, Wang M, Garrett WS, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Ogino S. Association Between Inflammatory Diet Pattern and Risk of Colorectal Carcinoma Subtypes Classified by Immune Responses to Tumor. Gastroenterology 2017. PubMed
  • Mehta RS, Nishihara R, Cao Y, Song M, Mima K, Qian ZR, Nowak JA, Kosumi K, Hamada T, Masugi Y, Bullman S, Drew DA, Kostic AD, Fung TT, Garrett WS, Huttenhower C, Wu K, Meyerhardt JA, Zhang X, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL, Fuchs CS, Chan AT, Ogino S. Association of Dietary Patterns With Risk of Colorectal Cancer Subtypes Classified by Fusobacterium Nucleatum in Tumor Tissue. JAMA Oncol 2017. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Strate LL, Keeley BR, Tam I, Wu K, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT. Meat intake and risk of diverticulitis among men. Gut 2017. PubMed
  • Strate LL, Keeley BR, Cao Y, Wu K, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT. Western Dietary Pattern Increases, Whereas Prudent Dietary Pattern Decreases, Risk of Incident Diverticulitis in a Prospective Cohort Study. Gastroenterology 2017. PubMed
  • Mima K, Cao Y, Chan AT, Qian ZR, Nowak JA, Masugi Y, Shi Y, Song M, da Silva A, Gu M, Li W, Hamada T, Kosumi K, Hanyuda A, Liu L, Kostic AD, Giannakis M, Bullman S, Brennan CA, Milner DA, Baba H, Garraway LA, Meyerhardt JA, Garrett WS, Huttenhower C, Meyerson M, Giovannucci EL, Fuchs CS, Nishihara R, Ogino S. Fusobacterium nucleatum in Colorectal Carcinoma Tissue According to Tumor Location. Clin Transl Gastroenterol 2016; 7:e200. PubMed
  • Dou R, Nishihara R, Cao Y, Hamada T, Mima K, Masuda A, Masugi Y, Shi Y, Gu M, Li W, da Silva A, Nosho K, Zhang X, Meyerhardt JA, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Qian ZR, Ogino S. MicroRNA let-7, T Cells, and Patient Survival in Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Immunol Res 2016; 4:927-935. PubMed
  • Giannakis M, Mu XJ, Shukla SA, Qian ZR, Cohen O, Nishihara R, Bahl S, Cao Y, Amin-Mansour A, Yamauchi M, Sukawa Y, Stewart C, Rosenberg M, Mima K, Inamura K, Nosho K, Nowak JA, Lawrence MS, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT, Ng K, Meyerhardt JA, Van Allen EM, Getz G, Gabriel SB, Lander ES, Wu CJ, Fuchs CS, Ogino S, Garraway LA. Genomic Correlates of Immune-Cell Infiltrates in Colorectal Carcinoma. Cell Rep 2016; 17:1206. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Chan AT. Aspirin and Cancer Risk-Reply. JAMA Oncol 2016. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Giovannucci EL. Alcohol as a Risk Factor for Cancer. Semin Oncol Nurs 2016; 32:325-31. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Nishihara R, Qian ZR, Song M, Mima K, Inamura K, Nowak JA, Drew DA, Lochhead P, Nosho K, Morikawa T, Zhang X, Wu K, Wang M, Garrett WS, Giovannucci EL, Fuchs CS, Chan AT, Ogino S. Regular Aspirin Use Associates With Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancers With Low Numbers of Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes. Gastroenterology 2016. PubMed
  • Mima K, Nowak JA, Qian ZR, Cao Y, Song M, Masugi Y, Shi Y, da Silva A, Gu M, Li W, Hamada T, Zhang X, Wu K, Meyerhardt JA, Baba H, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Ogino S, Nishihara R. Tumor LINE-1 methylation level and colorectal cancer location in relation to patient survival. 2016. PubMed
  • Charlton BM, Giovannucci E, Fuchs CS, Chan AT, Lee JE, Cao Y, Missmer SA, Rosner BA, Hankinson SE, Willett W, Wu K, Michels KB. A prospective study of oral contraceptive use and colorectal adenomas. Cancer Causes Control 2016; 27:749-57. PubMed
  • Masugi Y, Nishihara R, Yang J, Mima K, da Silva A, Shi Y, Inamura K, Cao Y, Song M, Nowak JA, Liao X, Nosho K, Chan AT, Giannakis M, Bass AJ, Hodi FS, Freeman GJ, Rodig S, Fuchs CS, Qian ZR, Ogino S. Tumour CD274 (PD-L1) expression and T cells in colorectal cancer. Gut 2016. PubMed
  • Song M, Nishihara R, Cao Y, Chun E, Qian ZR, Mima K, Inamura K, Masugi Y, Nowak JA, Nosho K, Wu K, Wang M, Giovannucci E, Garrett WS, Fuchs CS, Ogino S, Chan AT. Marine ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer Characterized by Tumor-Infiltrating T Cells. JAMA Oncol 2016. PubMed
  • Hanyuda A, Ogino S, Rong Qian Z, Nishihara R, Song M, Mima K, Inamura K, Masugi Y, Wu K, Meyerhardt JA, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Cao Y. Body mass index and risk of colorectal cancer according to tumor lymphocytic infiltrate. Int. J. Cancer 2016. PubMed
  • Mima K, Nishihara R, Yang J, Dou R, Masugi Y, Shi Y, da Silva A, Cao Y, Song M, Nowak J, Gu M, Li W, Morikawa T, Zhang X, Wu K, Baba H, Giovannucci EL, Meyerhardt JA, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Qian ZR, Ogino S. MicroRNA MIR21 (miR-21) and PTGS2 expression in colorectal cancer and patient survival. Clin Cancer Res 2016. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Nishihara R, Wu K, Wang M, Ogino S, Willett WC, Spiegelman D, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT. Population-wide Impact of Long-term Use of Aspirin and the Risk for Cancer. JAMA Oncol 2016. PubMed
  • Drew DA, Cao Y, Chan AT. Aspirin and colorectal cancer: the promise of precision chemoprevention. Nat Rev Cancer 2016; 16:173-86. PubMed
  • Strate LL, Singh P, Boylan MR, Piawah S, Cao Y, Chan AT. A Prospective Study of Alcohol Consumption and Smoking and the Risk of Major Gastrointestinal Bleeding in Men. PLoS ONE 2016; 11:e0165278. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Giovannucci E. Obesity and Prostate Cancer. Recent Results Cancer Res 2016; 208:137-153. PubMed
  • Keum N, Cao Y, Oh H, Smith-Warner SA, Orav J, Wu K, Fuchs CS, Cho E, Giovannucci EL. Sedentary behaviors and light-intensity activities in relation to colorectal cancer risk. Int J Cancer 2015. PubMed
  • Hanyuda A, Kim SA, Martinez-Fernandez A, Qian ZR, Yamauchi M, Nishihara R, Morikawa T, Liao X, Inamura K, Mima K, Cao Y, Zhang X, Wu K, Chan AT, Giovannucci EL, Meyerhardt JA, Fuchs CS, Shivdasani RA, Ogino S. Survival Benefit of Exercise Differs by Tumor IRS1 Expression Status in Colorectal Cancer. Ann Surg Oncol 2015. PubMed
  • Lochhead P, Nishihara R, Qian ZR, Mima K, Cao Y, Sukawa Y, Kim SA, Inamura K, Zhang X, Wu K, Giovannucci E, Meyerhardt JA, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Ogino S. Postdiagnostic intake of one-carbon nutrients and alcohol in relation to colorectal cancer survival. Am J Clin Nutr 2015. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Rosner BA, Ma J, Tamimi RM, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Wu K, Giovannucci EL. Assessing individual risk for high-risk colorectal adenoma at first-time screening colonoscopy. Int J Cancer 2015. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Meyerhardt JA, Chan AT, Wu K, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL. Television watching and colorectal cancer survival in men. Cancer Causes Control 2015; 26:1467-76. PubMed
  • Mima K, Nishihara R, Qian ZR, Cao Y, Sukawa Y, Nowak JA, Yang J, Dou R, Masugi Y, Song M, Kostic AD, Giannakis M, Bullman S, Milner DA, Baba H, Giovannucci EL, Garraway LA, Freeman GJ, Dranoff G, Garrett WS, Huttenhower C, Meyerson M, Meyerhardt JA, Chan AT, Fuchs CS, Ogino S. Fusobacterium nucleatum in colorectal carcinoma tissue and patient prognosis. Gut 2015. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Nimptsch K, Shui IM, Platz EA, Wu K, Pollak MN, Kenfield SA, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. Prediagnostic plasma IGFBP-1, IGF-1 and risk of prostate cancer. Int J Cancer 2015; 136:2418-26. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL. Light to moderate intake of alcohol, drinking patterns, and risk of cancer: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ 2015; 351:h4238. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Lindström S, Schumacher F, Stevens VL, Albanes D, Berndt S, Boeing H, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Canzian F, Chamosa S, Chanock SJ, Diver WR, Gapstur SM, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci EL, Haiman CA, Henderson B, Johansson M, Le Marchand L, Palli D, Rosner B, Siddiq A, Stampfer M, Stram DO, Tamimi R, Travis RC, Trichopoulos D, Willett WC, Yeager M, Kraft P, Hsing AW, Pollak M, Lin X, Ma J. Insulin-like growth factor pathway genetic polymorphisms, circulating IGF1 and IGFBP3, and prostate cancer survival. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2014; 106:dju085. PubMed
  • Tee MC, Cao Y, Warnock GL, Hu FB, Chavarro JE. Effect of bariatric surgery on oncologic outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Surg Endosc 2013; 27:4449-56. PubMed
  • Islami F, Cao Y, Kamangar F, Nasrollahzadeh D, Marjani HA, Shakeri R, Fahimi S, Sotoudeh M, Dawsey SM, Abnet CC, Boffetta P, Malekzadeh R. Reproductive factors and risk of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in northern Iran: a case-control study in a high-risk area and literature review. Eur J Cancer Prev 2013; 22:461-6. PubMed
  • Song Y, Chavarro JE, Cao Y, Qiu W, Mucci L, Sesso HD, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, Pollak M, Liu S, Ma J. Whole milk intake is associated with prostate cancer-specific mortality among U.S. male physicians. J Nutr 2013; 143:189-96. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Kenfield S, Song Y, Rosner B, Qiu W, Sesso HD, Gaziano JM, Ma J. Cigarette smoking cessation and total and cause-specific mortality: a 22-year follow-up study among US male physicians. Arch Intern Med 2011; 171:1956-9. PubMed
  • Cao Y, Ma J. Body mass index, prostate cancer-specific mortality, and biochemical recurrence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa) 2011; 4:486-501. PubMed
  • Lebwohl B, Ballas L, Cao Y, Chan G, Grossman R, Sherr DL, Woodhouse S, Neugut AI. Treatment interruption and discontinuation in radiotherapy for rectal cancer. Cancer Invest 2010; 28:289-94. PubMed