Karin B. Michels

Dr. Michels has expertise in epidemiologic methods, and epigenetic, nutritional, and cancer epidemiology. Her research focuses on women's health. 

Dr. Michels is one of the co-founders of the area of epigenetic epidemiology and has made seminal contributions to the methods used in this field. Her research addresses the role of epigenetics in the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). The Michels' lab studied the impact of events during perinatal life on the establishment of the epigenome.

In the context of DOHaD, Dr. Michels' research also explored the importance of the pre-pubertal and pubertal phases for breast cancer etiology. Dr. Michels led one of the coveted BCERP (Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program) Centers as part of an NIH initiative to study the role of environmental toxins of breast cancer risk across the lifespan.

Dr. Michels also has a long-standing interest in the role of nutrition in maintaining health. She has made numerous methodologic contributions to the field of nutritional epidemiology and has explored the importance of a healthy diet to cancer prevention throughout the lifecourse.

Lastly, Dr. Michels has explored the impact of fermented foods as well as pre- and probiotics on the gut microbiome in both healthy individuals and cancer patients.


  • PhD, Biostatistics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • ScD, Epidemiology, Harvard University, Boston, MA
  • MPH, Harvard University, Boston, MA
  • MS, Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  • MS, Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, NY
  • BS Equivalent, University of Freiburg Medical School, Freiburg, Germany

Areas of Interest

  • Epigenetic epidemiology
  • Perinatal risk factors for chronic disease (DOHaD)
  • Breast cancer epidemiology
  • Nutritional epidemiology and methodology
  • Epidemiologic methods

Selected Publications

  • Michels K, Song M, Willett WC, Rosner B. Latency estimation for chronic disease risk: a damped exponential weighting model. Eur J Epidemiol 2020;35:807-1.
  • Michels KB, Willett WC, Vaidya R, Zhang X, Giovannucci E. Yogurt consumption and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2020;112:1566-1575.
  • Michels KB, Binder N, Courant F, Franke AA, Osterhues A. Urinary excretion of sex steroid hormone metabolites after consumption of cow milk – a randomized cross-over intervention trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2019;109:402-410.
  • Stiemsma L, Michels KB. The role of the microbiome in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. Pediatrics 2018;141;pii:e20172437.
  • Binder AM, Michels KB. The causal effect of red blood cell folate on genome-wide methylation in cord blood: a Mendelian randomization approach. BMC Bioinformatics 2013;14:353.
  • Michels KB, Binder AM, Dedeurwaerder S, Epstein CB, Greally JM, Gut I, Houseman EA, Izzi B, Kelsey KT, Meissner A, Milosavljevic A, Siegmund KD, Bock C, Irizarry RA. Recommendations for the design and analysis of epigenome-wide association studies. Nature Methods 2013;10:949-955.
  • Rancourt RC, Harris HR, Barault LB, Michels KB. The prevalence of loss of imprinting of H19 and GF2 at birth. FASE B2013;27:3335-3343.
  • Carwile JL, Ye X, Zhou X, Calafat AM, Michels KB. Canned soup consumption and urinary bisphenol A: a randomized crossover trial. JAMA 2011;306:2218-20.
  • Carwile JL, Luu HT, Bassett LS, Driscoll DA, Yuan C, Chang JY, Ye X, Calafat AM, Michels KB. Polycarbonate bottle use and urinary bisphenol A concentrations. EnvironHealth Perspect 2009;117:1368-72.
  • Michels KB, Willett WC. Self-administered semiquantitative food frequency questionnaires: Patterns, predictors, and interpretation of omitted items. Epidemiology 2009;20:295-3017.
  • Xue F,Michels KB. Intrauterine factors and risk of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of current evidence. Lancet Oncol 2007;8:1088-1100.
  • Michels KB, Bingham SA, Luben R, Welch AA, Day NE. The effect of correlated measurement error in multivariate models of diet. Am J Epidemiol 2004;161:59-67.
  • Michels KB, Ekbom A. Caloric restriction and incidence of breast cancer. JAMA 2004;291:1226-30.
  • Greenland S, Michels KB, Robins JM, Poole C, Willett WC. Presenting statistical uncertainty in trends and dose-response relations. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:1077-1086.
  • Michels KB, Greenland S, Rosner BA. Does body mass index adequately capture the relation of body composition and body size to health outcomes? Am J Epidemiol 1998;47:167-172.
  • Michels KB, Trichopoulos D, Robins JM, Rosner BA, Manson JE, Hunter DJ, Colditz GA, Hankinson SE, Speizer FE, Willett WC. Birthweight as risk factor for breast cancer. Lancet 1996;348:1542-1546. [The authors reply. Lancet 1997;349:501-502
  • Rothman KJ,Michels KB. The continuing unethical use of placebo controls.N  Engl J Med 1994;331:394-398. [The authors reply. N Engl J Med 1995;332:62.
  • PubMed Publications