Overview of the Degree

The school has leveraged its long history to prepare students for the realities of working in epidemiology. The department offers a master's degree program at heavily focuses on the research portion of the field, allowing students to make the connection between what goes on in the lab and how it affects patient treatment in the real world. Students enrolled in this master's degree get preparation to work with microbiologists, biostatisticians, health administrators, environmental health experts and physicians.

The program not only emphasizes the research methodology necessary to track illnesses in a population, but also the ethical concerns that arise during the course of this type of work. Coursework in the master's program includes subjects such as pathobiology, public health data management, environmental health sciences, clinical effectiveness, infectious diseases, surveillance systems, and sexually transmitted diseases. Students are also required to complete a practicum, as well as progression and comprehensive examinations, in order to graduate. With over faculty members in the department, epidemiology students have access to experts with a wide range of experience in the field and research interests.

The master's degree program gives students the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of the faculty through coursework, as well as research opportunities. Students earning a degree at the school can focus on clinical research, human genetics or preventive medicine. The Division of Epidemiology, which is part of the school's Department of Environmental Health has a faculty dedicated to research that advances the knowledge base in the field.

Students who enroll in the master's program will have access to professors currently involved in research that addresses the health ramifications of being exposed to factors such as illicit drugs, work-related ergonomic disorders, organic pollutants, lead, mercury and arsenic. With a staff so heavily involved in research, it's not surprising that the master's degree program focuses on training students to understand different facets of epidemiological study, including the use of human subjects, disease surveillance, human population studies and data analysis.

The Department of Public Health works in concert with the private sector, community health practitioners, researchers in the field and other educators in order to understand the spread of diseases and work toward solutions for containment and elimination. Building on the experience and vision of the department, the master's degree program focuses on two vital areas: descriptive and analytic epidemiology. As a result, students get a broad view of the field, with information about both conducting surveillance on health outbreaks and forming hypotheses about the risk factors causing the conditions.

Students in this program can study subjects such as tracking diseases in children, HIV and AIDS research, mental health and environmental epidemiology. The university's department of epidemiology is dedicated to training the future professionals in the field through rigorous graduate degree programs.

In addition, the school stresses the importance of research, as well as providing service to the federal, state and local health communities. The school has two master's degree programs that provide extensive training in the theories and methods of the epidemiology profession. Upon completion of the degree programs, students can expect to be able to conduct evidence-based research and solve health problems through studying diseases, demonstrate high professional and ethical standards when working on public health cases, and understand the quantitative and qualitative research methods necessary to craft and execute public health studies.

The epidemiology master's program at Michigan State has been teaching students since However, in order to enhance their educational offerings, the department also added biostatistics to its focus; as a result, the master's degree program provides students with both the biostatistics skills and epidemiologic knowledge to work in the disease control, community health and health planning areas of the field.

The school also has a diverse list of research interests, including zoonotic diseases, environmental exposures, breast cancer, survival analysis and computational genomics. This program, which takes two to six years to complete, requires that students finish 40 hours of coursework including epidemiology, biostatistics, SAS programming and elective courses.

The Division of Epidemiology and Community Health is staffed with faculty members who have extensive experience in the epidemiology field. As a result, students enrolled in the master's degree program get the opportunity to work with researchers on numerous projects, such as research related to cancer, maternity, infectious diseases, behavioral interventions and community-based health.

Armed with this experience, as well as robust coursework, students leave the program prepared to track diseases on an individual patient and community level. Students have the opportunity to earn joint degrees from the program. For example, those who want to study medicine or law can combine their master's studies with a doctorate in the other discipline. Students in this program can get the scientific foundation they need to conduct epidemiological research by studying the relationship between risk factors and public health outcomes.

Some skills students can expect to graduate possessing include the ability to use software to conduct statistical analyses, review research and test its validity, apply best practices to data analysis and understand the different methodologies used to conduct epidemiological research. Students in this program are required to take core courses that cover data management, clinical trials, multivariate biostatistics and applied biostatistics.

In addition, students can take five credits of electives to complete their degree. There are multiple graduate education paths to becoming an epidemiologist, including the Master of Science, Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Public Health. It can be a challenge to distinguish between each option and determine which universities offer quality programs.

Prospective students should understand the costs and return on investment of completing a program of study in the field. Below are two things students should consider before enrolling. Students who choose to pursue an MS in Epidemiology may have to make additional sacrifices of time and financial resources. Studying for the degree may require taking a break from work or other major time commitments, and could impact time spent with family. The cost of a graduate degree varies widely by program and institution.

According to data from the U. In the job market, overall growth projections were 10 percent nationally between and , per the BLS. This is a relatively small occupational field, employing just slightly more than 5, people across the country. The largest job markets are in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington and Maryland, with state and local government departments and agencies among the biggest employers. At the state level, Florida, Kentucky and Texas are projected to see the biggest employment gains in epidemiology between and Below is a list of the top 10 states in terms of job growth projections for epidemiologists during that time period:.

Epidemiologists apply their expertise in the interdisciplinary fields of environmental, social, biological and behavioral sciences. At the graduate level, students learn not only about the relationship of disease to human populations, but also how to study that relationship. Through conceptual and application-based scientific research, students develop an understanding of the disease risk factors and how to create appropriate control and preventative measures.

Although their titles may sound similar, these primary degree options offer distinct forms of training in the practice. Below is an overview of each degree, the type of training offered, and associated career paths. The Master of Science MS is a research-based program of study within the broad epidemiology field. This degree program prepares students for research careers in both the public and private sector, such as health maintenance organizations, research facilities, local health departments or state health agencies. Students become well-versed in all areas of the field, including the core methodologies and subject areas of the practice.

Curriculum is general in nature, covering areas such as chronic disease epidemiology, biostatistics, methods of epidemiology, infection diseases epidemiology and more. Students will gain the ability to develop scientific hypothesis and design an appropriate epidemiologic study. They will also build expertise of methodological issues. After using statistical software to collect and analyze epidemiologic data sets using statistical software, students will produce research reports for both the public and scientific journals.

The Executive degree option mirrors the curriculum of the traditional Master of Science in Epidemiology program, but is offered in a more flexible format for working professionals. Depending on the program, students may meet on weekends or only once per month. However, the Executive degree still includes in-depth study in areas such as chronic diseases, social epidemiology, infectious diseases and more.

Completion time frames are generally shorter than traditional MS programs, typically within 20 to 22 months of coursework. Through these programs, students develop a foundational knowledge of epidemiology that can be applied to public health issues. This includes conducting population health studies and applying that research to improve the health of local communities, urban centers and other environments. The MPH prepares students for future studies in doctoral programs or for careers in epidemiology as researchers, educators and public health practitioners.

Graduates will be capable of identifying, reviewing and analyzing public health trends, as well as reviewing social, behavioral, environmental and biological risk factors. They will also be prepared to create and establish appropriate studies, synthesize results for public health policy creation, and craft intervention and prevention measures for diseases or other public health issues. It is an academic research degree that includes curriculum in the core disciplines of public health, with an additional focus on developing quantitative and research skills.

Like the MPH, students receive a broad education in areas such as biostatistics, environmental health, public health administration and health behaviors. Students can concentrate their epidemiology studies through electives coursework. Graduates with MSPH degrees can either continue into doctoral programs or pursue research-based careers in a variety of public and private institutions. For the Master of Public Health, epidemiology itself is a concentration area of study.

Degree requirements include a wide selection of core courses in areas such as principles of epidemiology, epidemiologic study design, foundations of statistical methods, biostatistics, health risk analysis and more. Below are some example concentrations and specialized areas of study in epidemiology. This concentration includes specific training into public health issues and trends related to epidemiology. Students in this concentration prepare for careers in public health settings, where they may work in research, disease identification and prevention, policy creation and more. Topics of study may include ethics in public health, issues in occupational health, principles of health services management, principles of social and behavioral science, and more.

Students focus on the issues behind both the transmission and biology of infectious diseases. They develop skill sets in mathematical modeling, pathogen genomics and class epidemiological methods, preparing them to pursue research careers in the field. Through coursework in this area, students are prepared to pursue careers in epidemiologic research on neurologic disorders.

Subject areas may include principles of neuroempidemology, disease etiology, epidemiological methods, clinical trial design, statistical analysis and more. Students can create a path of courses to concentrate their studies in cancer epidemiology, which focuses on the causes and risk factors of cancer.

Instructional topic areas may include cancer biology, epidemiologic studies of cancer etiology, exposure measurement, genetic epidemiology and more. An interdisciplinary area of practice, social epidemiology brings together multiple areas of the social sciences, including sociology, anthropology, and geography with the goal of identifying and analyzing health patterns in different populations.

Class topics may include social determinants of health, behavioral risk factors, psychosocial pathways, social ecological interventions and more. This specialized topic researches the diseases and risks associated with environmental, industrial and occupational exposures in general populations. Students explore topics such as air pollution, occupational hazards, emergency preparedness, bioterrorism and more.

It provides an overview of subject concentrations and what students may learn in each specific program. In this course, students learn about various types of biological, physical and chemical hazards in the workplace and general environment. Combining both theory- and application-based instruction, students will become familiar with identifying and evaluating hazards.

This class serves as a primer for the study of environmental epidemiologic methods. Students will learn about assessing and managing environmental exposures, ranging from bioterrorism to safe drinking water. This class emphasizes the epidemiologic concepts within public health, focusing on epidemiologic procedures for identifying and controlling disease, infections and other conditions that impact the human population.

In this course, students gain insight into age-related diseases and disorders, focusing on the methodologies of epidemiological studies of elderly populations. Subjects include risk factors, disease prevalence and health consequences in elderly adults. This class serves as an introduction to the various models — biological, mathematical and epidemiological — required to conduct population-based analysis of infectious diseases.

Students review real-world infectious disease outbreaks as well as clinical practice in the field. This course covers a variety of concepts and methods related to clinical epidemiology, including diagnostic testing analysis, decision analysis, assessment of outcomes and more. For students in the Master of Public Health concentration, this course introduces the theory of biostatistics, theoretical foundations of the field, probability and more.

Students get an introduction to statistics as related to the field of public health. Topics include probability, random variables, regression and variance analysis. This course broadly discusses U. This course covers the basics of the relationship between health care at large and public health, delving into issues of who creates and implements public policy.

An interdisciplinary course of study, this class examines the interconnected policy, legal and ethical issues of the biotechnology industry. Topics of study may include corporate organization, bioinformatics, tort liability and more. With the diversity of degree types and concentration areas, it may be challenging to identify the right educational path.

Will it be used as a starting point for continued studies in a doctoral or MD program? Or will it be a professional degree that transitions into a career after graduation? In addition to the purpose of the degree, there are three other factors that should be considered: faculty, field placements and areas of interest. Students should ask about the field placement process and get an understanding of the requirements for completion. It is also important to review potential site placement opportunities.

Does the university have partnerships with the state department of health, local health service administrations, hospitals or other facilities? Not all programs offer the same breadth of curriculum or concentration options. Students should review the formal concentrations and elective courses available. Students have the opportunity to customize their program of study through electives and research activities based on their future professional practice interests.

The risk depends on the woman's age at the time of exposure, and there is no increase in risk among women who were exposed after age 40 [22]. A family history of breast cancer predisposes members of affected families. Individuals with a history of premenopausal bilateral disease in first-degree relatives have the highest risk. The susceptibility is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion with high penetrance and is manifested in both females and males [31]. Thyroid carcinoma is a rare malignancy with a high cure rate. Women are affected two to three times more frequently than men [47].

Deaths from thyroid cancer account for only 0. Exposure to ionizing radiation up to 2, cGy for the treatment of head and neck ailments predisposes to the development of cancer of the thyroid. There is a linear dose-response relationship, and risk is inversely related to age at exposure. A number of excess cases are seen 5 to 9 years after the insult, and increased risk persists even 35 years after exposure [47].

Benign thyroid disease, specifically adenomas and goiters, are also risk factors for cancer of the thyroid. Follicular carcinomas are more common in iodine-deficient areas, while papillary histology predominates in areas with high iodine intake.


Medullary thyroid carcinoma is familial and occurs as part of multiple endocrine neoplasia II. The gene for this disease has been mapped to chromosome 10 [47]. Nonmelanoma skin cancer, the most common malignancy in the United States [48], refers collectively to basal-cell carcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma of the skin. The incidence rates for nonmelanoma skin cancer, particularly squamous-cell carcinoma, increase with age. Men are affected twice as often as women [49]. Nonmelanoma lesions tend to develop at sites of prior inflammation or scars.

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Environmental exposure to arsenic or radiation, prior therapy with psoralen plus ultraviolet A light, infection with human papillomavirus, and immune suppression may predispose to these malignancies [48]. Cigarette smoking increases the risk for squamous-cell carcinoma [49]. Ultraviolet radiation is the most important risk factor. It accounts for most cases and interacts with other factors as an etiologic agent [48].

Squamous-cell carcinoma is thought to be related to cumulative sun exposure, whereas basal-cell carcinoma is related to intermittent exposure, particularly before age 40 [49]. The risk of nonmelanoma and melanoma skin cancers is higher for whites and for people with poor tanning ability or a tendency to sunburn, fair skin, red or blond hair, and blue eyes [49,50].

Individuals with nonmelanoma skin cancer are at increased risk for developing new primary lesions [48]. The risk remains stable over time and increases with the number of skin cancers diagnosed. New lesions tend to be of the same histology as the original tumor. These patients may be at increased risk for cutaneous melanoma [49]. The incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma has been increasing. Australia has the highest incidence rate worldwide. The incidence is highest among persons in high socioeconomic classes.

Having pale skin or a large number of melanocytic nevi and freckles, sunburn from intermittent intense solar ultraviolet irradiation particularly early in life , and living near the equator are risk factors for cutaneous melanoma [50,51]. Ultraviolet irradiation from sunlamps or sunbeds increases the risk for melanoma as well [51]. Patients treated with cytotoxic therapy and those with transplant-associated immunosuppression or xeroderma pigmentosum are at increased risk for melanoma [50,51].

Patients with albinism and those previously exposed to psoralen and ultraviolet A radiation are at high risk for nonmelanoma skin cancer, but the risk for melanoma is not significantly increased [51]. There is a familial tendency toward dysplastic nevi. It is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion with high penetrance, located in chromosome 1p36 [50]. Leukemias are a diverse group of hematologic malignancies.

In general, the incidence rates of leukemias decreased slightly between and Leukemias tend to afflict more men than women and more whites than nonwhites. Acute myelogenous leukemia AML usually occurs after age 40, whereas acute lymphocytic leukemia is common during childhood, and its rates increase again after about age After , mortality rates for leukemias leveled off [52]. Exposure to benzene has been etiologically linked to leukemias; such exposure is estimated to increase leukemia risk 2 to 4. Workers in the rubber and shoe leather industries are exposed to benzene, which was a greater hazard before , when occupational safety standards were implemented [52].

Radiation exposure at moderate to high doses increases the risk for leukemia. The effect of ionizing radiation was determined by studies of atomic bomb survivors and patients irradiated for medical purposes [52]. The increased risk for leukemia begins 2 to 4 years after exposure, peaks at 6 to 8 years, and declines to normal within 25 years [22]. Development of chronic lymphocytic leukemia CLL is not influenced by exposure to ionizing radiation [52]. A small increase in leukemia risk has been noted for residents living near power plants. Childhood leukemia, but not adult leukemia, has been linked to exposure to electromagnetic fields.

However, it seems that the actual wiring configuration is a better indirect measure of exposure than is residency near power plants. Cigarette smoking increases the risk for AML by 1. Cytotoxic therapy increases the risk for developing a secondary leukemia, usually AML or a dysplastic syndrome. Older patients may be at increased risk, and risk decreases 10 years after treatment. Prolonged therapy with epipodophyllotoxins increases the risk, which is dependent on dose and schedule of administration. The latency period for acute leukemias related to epipodophyllotoxin therapy is shorter than for those associated with alkylating therapy.

While abnormalities at chromosome 11q23 have been noted in patients treated with epipodophyllotoxins, exposure to alkylating agents has been related to abnormalities on chromosomes 5 and 7. Another cytogenetic abnormality related to prior therapy is acquired monosomy 7 [53]. Infection with human T-lymphotropic virus type I accounts for the high incidence of adult T-cell leukemia and lymphoma in areas of Japan and the Caribbean [22].

Patients with aplastic anemia are at increased risk for leukemia. Genetic susceptibility for leukemia is seen in patients with Down's syndrome, autosomal recessive syndromes with chromosomal instability such as Bloom's and Fanconi's anemia, and ataxia telangiectasia [22]. Hodgkin's disease is the most common malignancy in young adulthood ages 15 to 24 years. The incidence rates of lymphomas have declined for Americans age 65 and older [3]. The disease is more common in males than in females; reproductive and hormonal factors may have a protective effect against Hodgkin's disease among females [54].

High socioeconomic status, white race, and a family history of Hodgkin's disease increase the predisposing risk.

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The risk also is higher in families with few children and for individuals born earliest within the family. Epstein-Barr virus is found in approximately half of affected patients. Although acquired immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS has contributed to this increase, it is not solely responsible. Among patients with NHL, the survival rates are better for whites and females [55]. Patients treated with cytotoxic drugs, particularly alkylating agents and ionizing radiation for a prior neoplasia, have a three- to ninefold increased risk for NHL. The latency period is about 5 to 6 years [55]. Environmental exposures that may cause NHL include exposure to pesticides, which particularly increase the risk for intermediate-grade NHL.

Workers exposed to organic solvents may have a three times greater risk for NHL, and prolonged exposure increases that risk. Exposure to wood and cotton dust also predispose to the development of NHL. Use of hair dyes, especially long duration of use and young age at first use, increases risk as well. Smoking may also be a predisposing factor [55].

Agricultural laborers are exposed to oncogenic animal viruses that may be linked to NHL [56]. Infection with H pylori is associated with a sixfold increased risk for gastric NHL [55]. Epstein-Barr virus infection is strongly associated with Burkitt's lymphoma in areas where the latter is endemic.

Concurrent malarial infection in patients with the African form of Burkitt's lymphoma induces an immunodeficiency state that potentiates the oncogenic effect of Epstein-Barr virus [22]. Immunodeficiency syndromes, autoimmune diseases with persistent antigenic stimulation, organ transplantation, and immunosuppressive therapy with azathioprine or cyclosporine are associated with increased risk for developing NHL [22,56]. Epidemiologic research plays an important role in the development of cancer screening modalities and prevention strategies. Cancer prevention focuses on decreasing incidence by lowering risk through changes in lifestyle patterns and behavior.

Primary prevention attempts to stop the development of cancer. Secondary prevention aims to improve cure rates by cancer screening and early diagnosis and treatment.

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Cancer screening involves testing to detect early-stage cancer in asymptomatic individuals. Ideally, screening tests should be easily administered, noninvasive, and inexpensive. To be beneficial, early detection should alter prognosis and improve survival.

Cervical Cancer: Cytologic screening for cervical cancer by Pap smears has had a major impact on the mortality rates for this malignancy. Successful screening relies on the detection of preinvasive lesions. The current recommendation is that screening for cervical cancer annual Pap smears should start at age 18, or earlier in sexually active women. Examinations can be performed less frequently after three consecutive exams are deemed normal by a physician and can be discontinued at age 65 if findings were previously normal [39]. Screening at intervals of 2 years offers the same protection as annual exams, but intervals of longer than 2 years between screenings are associated with an increased risk for invasive cervical cancer [57].

Nevertheless, guidelines for breast cancer screening vary. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute recommend annual clinical breast exams starting at age 40 and mammography every 1 to 2 years until age Women older than 50 should have mammograms every year. The American College of Physicians, the American College of Surgeons, and the US Preventive Services Task Force recommend that mammography screening begin at age 50 and be performed at 1- to 2-year intervals until age 75 and more frequently if any abnormalities are diagnosed.

Earlier breast cancer screening is advisable for those with increased risk for the disease [39].

Lessons from radiation epidemiology

Colorectal Cancer: The goal of screening tests for colorectal cancer is to detect adenomatous polyps that might become invasive so that these can be removed, thus improving overall survival through the detection of early-stage disease. Prostate Cancer: Digital rectal examination has been the traditional method of detecting abnormal areas in the prostate gland, but when used as a screening modality for prostate cancer, its effectiveness in diagnosing tumors confined to the prostate is uncertain [61].

Digital rectal examination plus measurement of serum prostate-specific antigen concentrations has been shown to enhance the detection rate for prostate cancer, but an optimal screening strategy for this disease has not yet been developed [62]. Transrectal ultrasonography and guided biopsy may be used in cases with abnormal findings [63]. Other Malignancies: The efficacy of screening programs for other malignancies has not been determined. Screening strategies for other cancer sites are under investigation. Special attention must be paid to patients who have had a malignancy and who may, therefore, need screening for second malignancies at other sites [64].

A relatively new approach to cancer prevention is under investigation through chemoprevention trials. Cancer chemoprevention is defined as the reversal of carcinogenesis in the premalignant phase [65].

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The observation that retinoids, acting as modulators of cell differentiation, are effective in suppressing oral carcinogenesis and, therefore, in preventing second primary tumors in squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck has led to the evaluation of these agents as chemopreventive therapy for tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract in high-risk populations [65,66].

A national tamoxifen chemoprevention trial is being conducted to evaluate risk reduction for primary breast cancer in women at high risk [67]. With the development of new molecular techniques, chemoprevention trials will be aided by the identification of markers for premalignant lesions. Bethesda, Maryland, National Cancer Institute.

Environmental Epidemiology

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Leukemia 6 suppl 4 :3—5, Curr Opin Oncol 5 1 — 34, Am J Epidemiol 3 —, Weisenburger DD: Epidemiology of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Recent findings regarding an emerging epidemic. Ann Oncol 5 suppl 1 —24, Cancer Res 52 suppl 19 —S, A decision analytic view. JAMA —, J Clin Oncol —, We've noticed that you're using an ad blocker Our content is brought to you free of charge because of the support of our advertisers. To continue enjoying our content, please turn off your ad blocker. Skip to main content. Epidemiology of Cancer and Prevention Strategies. April 2, Ovarian Cancer , Oncology Journal.

Descriptive Epidemiology Analytic Epidemiology Clinical Epidemiology References Cancer epidemiology is the study of the distribution, determinants, and frequency of malignant disease in specific populations [1]. Descriptive Epidemiology The American Cancer Society estimates that during , there will be 1,, new cancer cases and , deaths from cancer in the United States. CA Cancer J Clin , Clin Chest Med 14 1 : , Mutations and the Importance of Genetic Testing. It's off now Dismiss How do I disable my ad blocker?