Dorothy Pathak, PhD

Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Family Practice

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
909 Wilson Road Room B601
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
Telephone: 517.353.8623

Professor Pathak has been involved in epidemiological and bio-statistical research for the past 45 years, first at the University of New Mexico and now at Michigan State University. In both settings the principal focus of her work has been studies of cancer etiology and prevention. After receiving her doctorate in statistics/biostatistics, in 1975, Dr. Pathak served as a statistical consultant and co-investigator in a variety of research studies. In 1980, she was Co-Principal Investigator on the “Steroid and Hormone Study,” evaluating the effect of oral contraceptives on breast cancer risks in pre-menopausal women. In 1983, Dr. Pathak obtained a Master of Science in Epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research at Harvard led to the publication in 1986, based on data from the Nurses’ Health Study, of the crossover effect of parity on breast cancer risk, i.e., increased breast cancer risk for parous women relative to nulliparous during child-bearing age and reduced lifetime risk, with timing of crossover occurring prior to menopause and being dependent on the reproductive pattern of the women. Continuation of her work at Harvard resulted in a joint grant during 1986-88 with Dr. Alice Whittemore from Stanford, to further evaluate the effects of body size, parity and menstrual events on breast cancer incidence in seven countries, which resulted in a publication in 1992. 

Dr. Pathak’s move in 1995, to Michigan State University was undertaken in order to further develop her research on the effects of migration on breast cancer incidence among Polish immigrant women, and therefore proximity to the large Polish-American populations of Detroit and Chicago was an essential ingredient.  In October 1997, her grant entitled: “Breast Cancer in Women of Polish Ancestry,” was funded by the National Cancer Institute. The study is known in the field as Polish Women’s Health Study (PWHS) and consists of two parallel case-control studies, one of Polish migrant women to the US (residing in Cook County and Detroit Metropolitan Area -151 breast cancer cases and 303 population-based controls), and the other of Polish Native women in 4 Oncological Centers in Poland (823 breast cancer cases and 876 population-based controls). The data collection on this grant has been completed, however, data analyses are in progress. The most recent publication of findings showing reduced risk of breast cancer with high consumption of cabbage/sauerkraut foods both in adolescence as well as adulthood can be found at

As a follow-up to the PWHS, Dr. Pathak also received two additional grants “Breast Cancer Gene-Diet Interactions-US Polish Migrants” and “Breast Cancer Gene-Diet Interactions in Polish Women.”   The two grants funded the collection of buccal cells and urine from the participants in the PWHS. Data analysis of individual hypothesized SNPs in various pathways leading to increased breast cancer risk are currently under investigation. A grant entitled: “Biological Individuality, Cruciferous Vegetable and Breast Cancer Risk” in collaboration with other investigators from the PWHS is under preparation.

Continuing her research into the crossover effect of parity on breast cancer risk during the childbearing age, Dr. Pathak proposed a potential explanation for the crossover of breast cancer incidence between White and Black women, which until then was considered anomaly,. She hypothesized that the crossover effect is due to the differences in the reproductive patterns between White and Black women, especially the younger age at first birth for the Black populations. She published her analysis and hypothesis, in two papers: Pathak DR Cancer 2000 and Pathak DR CCC 2002.  

Further description of the PWHS and of the results can be found at



from over 120 peer reviewed publications.

Pathak DR, Stein AD, He J-P, Noel MM, Hembroff L, Nelson DA, Vigneau F, Shen T, Scott LJ, Charzewska J, Wajszczyk B, Clark K, Rybaczyk LA, Pathak BA, Błaszczyk D, Bankowski A, Willett WC. Cabbage and Sauerkraut Consumption in Adolescence and Adulthood and Breast Cancer Risk among US-Resident Polish Migrant Women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(20):10795.

Velie EM, Marcus LR, Pathak DR, Hamilton AS, DiGaetano R, Klinger R, Gollapudi B, Carnegie N, Olson LK, Allen ANJ, Zhang Z, Modjeski D, Norman G, Lucas DR, Gupta S, Rui H, Schwartz K. Theory, methods and operational results of the Young Women’s Health History Study: A study of young-onset breast cancer incidence among Black and White Women. Cancer Causes & Control (2021); 32:1129–1148.

Cheng HG, Gonzalez-Reymundez A, Li I, Pathak A, Pathak DR, de los Campos G, et al. (2020) Breast cancer survival and the expression of genes related to alcohol drinking. PLoS ONE 15 (2): e0228957.

Strahle DA, Pathak DR, Sierra A, Saha S, Strahle C, Devisetty K. Systematic development of an abbreviated protocol for screening breast magnetic resonance imaging. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Apr;162(2):283-295.

Rybaczyk LA, Bashaw MJ, Pathak DR, Huang K.  An indicator of cancer.  Downregulation of MonoamineOxidase-A in multiple organs and species. BMC Genomics 2008 Mar;9(134):1-9. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2164-9-134

Rybaczyk LA, Bashaw MJ, Pathak DR, Moody SM, Gilders RM, Holzschu DL.  An overlooked connection: serotonergic mediation of estrogen-related physiology and pathology. BMC Women’s Health, 2005, 5-12.  Highly Accessed, 17K. This article is in the 72nd percentile (ranked 74,236th) of the 273,135 tracked articles of a similar age in all journals and the 1st percentile (ranked 1st) of the 1 tracked articles of a similar age in BMC Women's Health. 10.1186/1472-6874-5-12

Ciska E, Pathak DR.  Glucosinolate derivatives in stored fermented cabbage.  J. Agric Food Chem 2004 Dec 29;52(26);7938-43.

Pathak DR. Dual effect of first full term pregnancy on breast cancer risk; empirical evidence and postulated underlying biology. Cancer Causes and Control. 2002;13(4):295-8. doi: 10.1023/a:1015282916368

Pathak DR, Osuch JR, He J. Breast cancer etiology.  Current knowledge and new insights into the effects of reproductive and hormonal risk factors in Black and White populations.  Cancer Supplement 2000; 88(5):1230-1238. DOI: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(20000301)88:5+<1230::aid-cncr9>;2-f

Hofseth LJ, Raafat AM, Osuch JR, Pathak DR, Slomski CA, Haslam SZ.  Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen or estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone acetate is associated with increased epithelial proliferation in the normal postmenopausal breast.  Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 1999;84:4559-4565. DOI: 10.1210/jcem.84.12.6194

Gardiner J, Pathak D,  Indurkhya A.  Power calculations for detecting interaction in stratified 2x2 tables. Statistics & Probability Letters 1999;41:267-275. 

Pathak DR, Whittemore A. Combined effects of body size, parity and menstrual events on breast cancer incidence in seven countries.  Am J Epidemiol 1992;135(2):153-68. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a116268

Samet J, Pathak D, Morgan M, Key C, Valdivia A, Lubin J.  Lung cancer mortality and exposure to radon progeny in a cohort of New Mexico underground uranium miners.  Health Physics 1991; 61(6):745-752.  DOI: 10.1097/00004032-199112000-00005

Bartow SA, Pathak DR, Mettler FA.  Radiographic microcalcification and parenchymal pattern as indicators of histologic “high-risk” benign breast disease. Cancer 1990; 66(8):1721-1725. DOI: 10.1002/1097-0142(19901015)66:8<1721::aid-cncr2820660812>;2-i

Pathak D, Speizer FE, Willett WC, Rosner B, Lipnick RJ.  Parity and breast cancer risk: Possible effect on age at diagnosisIntl J Cancer 1986;3721-25. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.2910370105

Pathak DR, Samet JM, Humble CG, Skipper BJ.  Determinants of lung cancer risk in cigarette smokers.  JNCI 1986;76(4):597-604.  DOI: 10.1093/jnci/76.4.597

Pathak DR, Samet J, Howard C, Key C.  Malignant melanoma of the skin in New Mexico 1969-1977. Cancer 1982;50(7):1440-1446. DOI: 10.1002/1097-0142(19821001)50:7<1440::aid-cncr2820500734>;2-n

Pathak D, Skipper BJ, Munsick R.  Estimation of fetal or neonatal weight from the biparietal diameter. J Reprod Med 1977;18(2):87.

Kellner R, Gervais RH, Pathak D.  A pilot study of the short-term antianxiety effects of molindone HCl.  J Clin Pharmacol 1972;12(11 & 12):472-476.