Julia Heck

I joined UCLA in 2009 and am an Associate Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology and a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Prior to coming to UCLA I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization. I am a member of the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium, the Children's Oncology Group, and the Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium.


  • PhD, Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, NY
  • MPH, Boston University, Boston, MA
  • AB, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

Areas of Interest

I have a strong interest in global cancer epidemiology and control. My major research focuses on the epidemiology of childhood cancers within cohorts of children from the United States and Scandinavia, with an emphasis on environmental and occupational causes of cancer as well as maternal and paternal health behaviors and the perinatal environment.  Our group has several ongoing projects which examine the risk of cancer among California’s diverse populations. 

Childhood Cancer in Relation to Parental Occupational Exposure to Chemical and Other Agents 

I lead the Parental Occupation and Childhood Cancer (POCC) Study, an international effort that integrates data from large prospective databases in Denmark with cancer registry data. The overarching objective of this study is to address hypotheses of exposure to environmental agents in childhood cancer etiology, using validated job-exposure matrices (JEMs) developed by Danish occupational hygienists. This project includes over 6000 cancer cases, and we are able to additionally use data from the Danish Medical Births Registry to address questions of gestational risk factors. 

Maternal Comorbidities, Prescription drug use in pregnancy, and Childhood cancer (COMPAC): a record linkage study in Denmark 

I am PI of a large-scale study of childhood cancer among Danish children which utilizes information from large medical and pharmaceutical databases to examine the risk of childhood cancers from maternal comorbid health conditions and prescription drug use during pregnancy. 

Environmental Health Tracking of Childhood Cancers 

Our group has several projects which use California Cancer Registry records of 11,000 childhood cancer cases, linked to California birth records, to examine the risk of cancer related to perinatal exposure to traffic-related air pollution, air toxics, pesticides, and other environmental as well as gestational risk factors. 

Smoking and Embryonal Tumor Study 

Our group is starting a new project which will conduct broad metabolomic profiling of newborn blood spots.  We aim to examine whether nicotine and cotinine differ in blood spots between retinoblastoma cases and controls, and also to examine a variety of metabolites in relation to cancer risk.  

Selected Publications

  • S Azary, A Ganguly, GR Bunin, C Lombardi, AS Park, B Ritz, JE Heck. “The risk of sporadic retinoblastoma development in the child and parental smoking and alcohol consumption before and after conception: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group.” PLOS One. 2016 Mar 18;11(3):e0151728. 
  • M Vinceti, C Malagoli, M Malavolti, A Cherubini, G Maffeis, R Rodolfi, JE Heck, G Astolfi, E Calzolari, F Nicolini. “Does maternal exposure to benzene and PM10 during pregnancy influence the risk of congenital anomalies? A population-based case-control study in a Northern Italy community.”  Science of the Total Environment. 541:444-450, January 2016. 
  • JE Heck, N Omidakhsh, S Azary, B Ritz, OS von Ehrenstein, GR Bunin, A Ganguly.  “A case-control study of sporadic retinoblastoma in relation to maternal health conditions and reproductive factors: A report from the Children’s Oncology Group.”  BMC Cancer. 15:735, October 2015. 
  • C Lombardi, A Ganguly, GR Bunin, S Azary, V Alfonso, B Ritz, JE Heck. “Maternal Diet during Pregnancy and Unilateral Retinoblastoma: A Report from the Children’s Oncology Group.” Cancer Causes and Control. 26(3):387-97, March 2015. 
  • JE Heck, AS Park, J Qiu, M Cockburn, B Ritz.  “Retinoblastoma and ambient exposure to air toxics in the perinatal period.”  Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.  25:182–6, March 2015. 
  • T Filippini, JE Heck, C Malagoli, C del Giovane, M Vinceti. “A review and meta-analysis of outdoor air pollution and risk of childhood leukemia.”  Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part C.  33(1):36-66, January 2015. 
  • A Woehrer, CC Lau, D Prayer, L Bauchet, M Rosenfeld, JS Barnholtz-Sloan, D Capper, PG Fisher, M Kool, M Müller, JM Kros, H Ohgaki, C Kruchko, J Wiemels, M Wrensch, HE Danysh, S Zouaoui, JE Heck, KJ Johnson, X Qi, JA Hainfellner; on behalf of the Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium.  “Brain Tumor Epidemiology - A Hub within Multidisciplinary Neuro-oncology. Report on the 16th Brain Tumor Epidemiology Consortium (BTEC) Annual Meeting, Vienna, 2014.”  Clinical Neuropathology. 34(1):40-6, Jan-Feb 2015. 
  • EL Marcotte, JE Heck, F Yu, M Cockburn, B Ritz.  “Exposure to Infections and Risk of Leukemia in Young Children.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. 23(7):1195-203, July 2014. 
  • JE Heck, AS Park, J Qiu, M Cockburn, B Ritz.  “Risk of leukemia in relation to exposure to ambient air toxics in pregnancy and early childhood.” International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health. 217(6):662-8, July 2014. 
  • JA Allen, ER Gritz, H Xiao, R Rubenstein, E Kralikova, M Haglund, J Heck, R Niaura,  DM Vallone, WELAS team.  “Impact of tobacco control policy on quitting and nicotine dependence among women in five European countries.” Tobacco Control. 23: 173-7, February 2014. 
  • EL Marcotte, B Ritz, M Cockburn, C Clarke, JE Heck.  “Birth characteristics and risk of lymphoma in young children.” Cancer Epidemiology. 38(1): 48-55, February 2014. 
  • JE Heck, J Wu, C Lombardi, J Qiu, TJ Meyers, M Wilhelm, M Cockburn, B Ritz. “Childhood cancer and traffic-related air pollution exposure in pregnancy and early life.”  Environmental Health Perspectives.  121(11-12): 1385-91, November-December 2013. 
  • JE Heck, TJ Meyers, AS Park, CA Lombardi, M Cockburn, P Reynolds, B Ritz.  “Case-control study of birth characteristics and the risk of hepatoblastoma.” Cancer Epidemiology. 37(4): 390-5, August 2013. 
  • CA Lombardi, JE Heck, M Cockburn, B Ritz.  “Solar UV radiation and cancer in young children.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. 22: 1118-28, June 2013. 
  • A Shrestha, B Ritz, S Ognjanovic, CA Lombardi, M Wilhelm, JE Heck.  “Early life factors and risk of childhood rhabdomyosarcoma.” Frontiers in Public Health. 1:17, May 2013. 
  • PubMed Publications