Dr. Dorgan is an epidemiologist with particular expertise in molecular and nutritional epidemiology. She has a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, a M.P.H. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, and a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University. She did her post-doctoral training in Cancer Prevention and Control at the National Cancer Institute.
After completing her M.P.H. in Nutrition, Dr. Dorgan worked on national nutrition policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She subsequently earned her Ph.D. in Epidemiology, and since that time has conducted epidemiologic research at the Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama, Maryland Medical Research Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Dr. Dorgan currently is a tenured Professor in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine and holds a joint appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland School of Public Health. She is a co-leader of the Population Science Program, University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
Dr. Dorgan's research focuses primarily on identifying hormonal determinants of cancer, particularly breast cancer, and hormonal mechanisms by which environmental and behavioral exposures, as well as genetics, affect cancer risk. While at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) she was the Principal Investigator of the Columbia, MO Serum Bank, which is a long-standing prospective cohort study of women. Since leaving NCI, Dr. Dorgan continues to actively participate in research based on this cohort to identify hormonal, environmental and nutritional influences on cancer risk.
In a recent prospective analysis from the Columbia, Missouri Serum Bank, Dr. Dorgan and NCI colleagues found that women with more extensive 2-hydroxylation of estrogens are at a reduced risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. In another recent study, they found that anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), a serum marker of ovarian function, is strongly positively related to breast cancer risk. The ovarian surface epithelium and uterus are Müllerian-derived tissues, and Dr. Dorgan currently is leading an international collaboration to prospectively evaluate associations of AMH with ovarian and endometrial cancer risk. She also is beginning to identify metabolomic profiles associated with ovarian cancer risk.
Dr. Dorgan also conducts research on early life exposures and adult chronic disease risk. In a recently completed follow-up of female participants of the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC) to evaluate the longer-term effects of a diet intervention to lower fat intake during childhood and adolescence on biomarkers associated with breast cancer risk, the intervention group had lower fasting plasma glucose, lower blood pressure and lower large very-low-density lipoprotein particles, an early marker of insulin resistance, compared to the usual care control group. Interestingly, insulin-related biomarkers did not differ by treatment group during childhood and adolescence, and Dr. Dorgan and her colleagues speculate that the emergence of these differences as the cohort ages could be due to epigenetic changes in response to dietary differences during youth that become apparent with age-related adverse changes in metabolic parameters.
Although the DISC intervention was not associated with young adult percent breast density, in secondary analyses from this study Dr. Dorgan and colleagues found that premenarche serum adrenal androgens were positively associated with breast density in young adulthood. In contrast, adiposity in youth was inversely associated with breast density as a consequence of heavier girls having less dense breast fibroglandular tissue. Dr. Dorgan and colleagues are continuing to conduct analyses and anticipate that many novel findings will come from this unique resource. In ongoing studies they are evaluating associations of adolescent diet with breast density in young adulthood.