Heather Hammond Nelson MPH, PhD » Faculty

Research Interests:

Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Community Health; Co-leader, Prevention and Etiology Program, Masonic Cancer Center

Home Masonic Cancer Center 554 MCRB East River Parkway Minneapolis MN 55455 USA Work Phone: (612) 626-9887 Website: A full bibliography Website: Cancer Epidemiology Website: Prevention and Etiology at the Masonic Cancer Center Website: PubH 6387, Cancer Epidemiology
Photo of Heather Hammond Nelson MPH, PhD



Heather Nelson received her MPH from the University of Minnesota and a PhD in Cancer Biology from Harvard University.  She has a long-standing interest in cancer etiology, and the intersection of environmental exposures and genetics in increasing cancer susceptibility.  Her recent work has focused on inter-individual variation in immunity in cancer risk and outcome.  Specific cancers of interest include skin cancer, head and neck cancer, mesothelioma, bladder and lung cancer.

  • B.A., Hamline University
  • M.P.H., University of Minnesota
  • Ph.D., Harvard University

Professional Experience

  • 1998 – 1999:  Post-doctoral fellow, Molecular Epidemiology
  • 1999 – 2002: Research Associate, Department of Cancer Cell Biology
    Harvard School of Public Health
  • 2002 – 2007: Assistant Professor of Environmental Epidemiology
    Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health
  • 2007 – present: Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota


  • 1990 – 1992. Walter Kenyon Scholarship in Biology, Hamline University
  • 1992, Walter Kenyon Award, Outstanding Senior in Biology, Hamline University
  • 1992, Magna Cum Laude, Hamline University
  • 1995, Histopathobiology of Neoplasia fellowship, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 1996 – 1998, Albert J. Ryan Fellow, Harvard University
  • 1996, Delta Omega Society
  • 1997, EMS Scholar Travel Award, Environmental Mutagen Society
  • 1998, AACR-Glaxo Wellcome Oncology Clinical Research Scholar Award, American Association for Cancer Research
  • 2001, First Decade Award, Hamline University
  • 2005, Junior Faculty Sabbatical Award, Harvard School of Public Health

Research Interests

  •  Genetic susceptibility to environmentally-induced cancers, including skin cancer, mesothelioma, head and neck cancer, bladder cancer and lung cancer
  • Inter-individual variation in immune function in cancer etiology and clinical outcome
  • Epigenetics in cancer etiology

Recent Publications

  • Michaud, DS, Houseman, EA, Marsit, C, Nelson, HH, Wiencke, JK, Kelsey, KT. Understanding the role of the immune response in cancer: new opportunities for population-based research. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, 2015
  • Liang, C, Kelsey, KT, Patel, A, McClean, M, Christensen, BC, Marsit, CJ, Karagas, MR, Waterboer, T, Pawlita, M, Nelson, HH. A coding variant in TMC8 (EVER2) is associated with high risk HPV infection and head and neck cancer risk. Plos One 10(4):e0123716, 2015
  • Lazovich, D, Vogel, RI, Weinstock, MA, Nelson, HH, Ahmed, RL, Berwick, M. Indoor tanning – a factor in diverging trends in melanoma among young men and women. JAMA Dermatology, 2015
  • Tan, X, Nelson, HH, Langevin, SM, McClean, M, Marsit, CM, Pawlita, M, Kelsey, KT, Michaud, DS. Obesity and head and neck cancer risk and survival by human papillomavirus status. Cancer Causes and Control 26(1):111-9, 2015
  • Allen, EM, Alexander, BH, MacLehose, RF, Nelson, HH, Ramachandran, G, Mandel, JF. Occupational exposures and lung cancer risk among Minnesota taconite mining workers. Occup Environ Med72(9):633-39, 2015
  • Xu, L, Qu, YH, Chu, X-D, Wang, R, Nelson, HH, Gao, YT, Yuan, J-M. Urinary levels of N-nitroso compounds in relation to risk of gastric cancer: findings from the Shanghai Cohort Study. PLoS One 10(2):e0117326, 2015
  • Vineretsky, KA, Karagas, MR, Kuriger, JK, Nelson, HH. HLA-C -35kb expression SNP is associated with differential control of B-HPV infection in squamous cell carcinoma cases and controls. PLoS One 9(8):e103710, 2014
  • Farzan, SF, Karagas, MR, Christensen, BC, Li, Z, Kuriger, JK, Nelson, HH. RNASEL and MIR146A SNP-SNP interaction as a susceptibility factor for non-melanoma skin cancer. PLoS One 9(4):e93602, 2014
  • Vogel, RI, Ahmed, RL, Nelson, HH Berwick, M, Weinstock, MA, Lazovich, D. Expsoure to indoor tanning without burning and melanoma risk by sunburn history. J Natl Cancer Inst 106(7):219, 2014
  • Karagas, MR, Zens, MS, Li, Z, Stukel, TA, Perry, AE, Gilbert-Diamond, D, Sayarath, V, Stephenson, RS, Nelson, HH, Spencer, SK. Early-onset basal cell carcinoma and indoor tanning: a population-based study. Pediatrics 134:e4-12, 2014
  • Accomando, WP, Wiencke, JK, Houseman, EA, Nelson, HH, Kelsey, KT. Quantitative reconstruction of leukocyte subsets using DNA methylation. Genome Biology 15(3):R50, 2014
  • Michaud, DS, Langevin, SM, Eliot, M, Nelson, HH, Pawlita, M, McClean, MD, Kelsey, KT. High-risk HPV types and head and neck cancer. Int J Cancer, 2014
  • Felices, M, Ankarlo, DE, Lenvik, TR, Nelson, HH, Blazer, BR, Verneris, MR, Miller, JS. Notch signaling at later stages of Natural Killer cell development enhances KIR expression and functional maturation. J Immunology, 193(7):3344-54, 2014
  • Langevin, SM, Houseman, EA, Accomando, WP, Koestler, DC, Christensen, BC, Nelson, HH, Karagas, MR, Marsit, CJ, Wiencke, JK, Kelsey, KT. Leukocyte-adjusted epigenome-side association studies of blood from solid tumor patients. Epigenetics 9(6), 2014
  • Yuan, JM, Butler, LM, Gao, YT, Murphy, SE, Carmella, SG, Wang, R, Nelson, HH, Hecht, SS. Urinary metabolites of a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon and volatile organic compounds in relation to lung cancer development in lifelong never smokers in The Shanghai Cohort Study. Carcinogenesis, 35(2):339-45, 2014