The University of Arizona

Zhao Chen PhD, MPH

Professor, Division Director, Epi/Biostats
Epidemiology and Biostatistics Division
1295 N. Martin
Campus PO Box: 245211
Drachman Hall A238
Tucson, AZ 85724
(520) 626-9011


Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, has been focused on epidemiologic research of women's health and aging-related health conditions. She has a wealth of experience in studying body composition assessments, breast cancer risk factors, fracture risk in cancer survivors, osteoporosis prevention, epidemiology of anemia, biomarker and genetic variations for chronic diseases and sarcopenia measurements among women and elderly from different ethnic backgrounds. She is a member of the Arizona Cancer Center, Arizona Center on Aging, Arizona Arthritis Center and Bio5. She is a funded researcher by the National Health Institute (NIH), and has served on numerous scientific study sections for the NIH and other funding agencies nationally and internationally. Dr. Chen also has an affiliated faculty appointment with the School of Anthropology.

Her work with the U.S. Women's Health Initiative study has produced several significant research papers on epidemiologic methodology and osteoporosis risk factors in diverse populations. Her findings on increased fracture risk among breast cancer survivors have caught wide public attention, thus making a significant contribution to the prevention of fractures in the large number of breast cancer survivors. Her research on mammographic density as a proxy of breast cancer risk has provided direct evidences on significant associations between body composition, dietary intake, and mammographic density. The study findings on changes in body composition and hip structural geometry with intervention and aging have contributed to osteoporosis prevention and healthy aging research. Currently, she is leading investigations on longitudinal changes in bone strength and skeletal muscle loss associated with aging and hormone and calcium/vitamin D interventions. Her research on biomarkers and genetic variations for sarcopenia is supported by the National Institute of Aging/NIH. She has also received NIH funding to study anemia and its relationship with muscle loss, physical function, and mortality in Mexican American, Africa American, Native American, Asian, and Non-Hispanic white postmenopausal women. In the recent years, she has been working with several large worldwide consortiums on genome-wide association studies for sarcopenia and anemia.

Besides teaching in classes, Dr. Chen has been providing research training opportunities to students especially minority students from underserved populations. Under her direction, graduate students in her laboratory are conducting research in many aspects of women's health and aging. Some examples of the research areas include arthritis and osteoporosis in women, anemia and cardiovascular diseases, physical functional assessments in the elderly, and relationship of growth factors with breast cancer risk. With the growing elderly population in the United States, osteoporosis, sarcopenia and anemia have become more significant public health problems. In responding to the community's needs, she frequently gives community health lectures and provides opportunities of health screening and education to publics. Dr. Chen is working on building a strong research and health promotion program to contribute to healthy aging in people from all ethnic backgrounds.

Research Interests:

  • Epidemiology 
  • Biomarkers and genetic variations for osteoporosis
  • Sarcopenia and anemia
  • Body composition assessment
  • Epidemiology of aging
  • Women's health
  • Risk assessment for chronic diseases
  • Fracture prediction
  • Relationships between osteoporosis and cancer

Healthy Aging Website:



1997, Postdoctoral Training, Epidemiology, University of Arizona

1996, PhD, Physical Anthropology, University of Arizona

1995, MPH, Public Health Nutrition, University of Arizona

1985, MS, Physical Anthropology, Academic Sinica, Beijing China

1983, BS, Biology, Beijing Normal University

Selected Publications:

Bea J, Wright NC, Thompson P; Hu C; Guerra S; Chen Z.  Performance Evaluation of a Multiplex Assay for Future Use in Biomarker Discovery Efforts to Predict Body Composition. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine 2010 (accepted for publication).

Chen Z, Thomson CA, Aickin M, Nicholas JS, Van Wyck D, Lewis CE, Cauley JA, Bassford T.  The Relationship between Incidence of Fractures and Anemia in Older Multiethnic Women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2010 (accepted for publication).

Chen Z, Maricic M, Aragaki AK, Mouton C, Arendell L, Lopez AM,  Bassford T, Chlebowski RT. Fracture risk increases after diagnosis of breast or other cancers in postmenopausal women: results from the Women's Health Initiative. Osteoporos Int 2009, 20 (4): 527—36,

Chen Z, Arendell L, Aickin M, Cauley J, Lewis CE, Chlebowski R. Hip Bone Density Predicts Breast Cancer Risk Independently of Gail Score --- Results from the Women's Health Initiative. Cancer 2008; 113 (5): 907-915 (published with editorial).

Chen Z, Beck TJ, Cauley JA, Lewis CE, LaCroix A, Bassford T, Wu G, Sherrill D, Going S. Hormone Therapy Improves Femur Geometry Among Ethnically Diverse Postmenopausal Participants in the Women's Health Initiative Hormone Intervention Trials. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2008 23:1935-1945.

Wang ZM, Heshka S, Wang J, Gallagher D, Deurenberg P, Chen Z, Heymsfield SB. Metabolically-active portion of fat-free mass: a cellular body composition level modeling analysis. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 2006; 292:49-53.

Chen Z, ZiMian Wang, Tim Lohman, Steven B. Heymsfield, Eric Outwater, Jennifer S. Nicholas, Tamsen Bassford, Andrea LaCroix, Mark Punyanitya, Guanglin Wu, Duane Sherrill, Scott Going, DXA is a reliable tool for assessing skeletal muscle mass in older women. J. Nutr. 2007; 137 2775-2780.

Chen Z, Bassford T, Green SB, Cauley JA, Jackson RD, LaCroix AZ, Leboff M, Stefanick ML, Margolis KL. Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy and Body Composition --- Results from the Women's Health Initiative E & P Clinical Trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 82:651-6.

Chen Z, Maricic M, Bassford TL, Pettinger M, Ritenbaugh C, Lopez AM, Barad DH, Gass M, Leboff MS. Fracture Risk among Breast Cancer Survivors-Results from the Women's Health Initiative. Archive of Internal Medicine 2005; 165:552-228.

Chen Z, Maricic M, Pettinger M, Ritenbaugh C, Lopez AM, Barad DH, Gass M, Leboff MS, Bassford TL. Osteoporosis and Rate of Bone Loss among Postmenopausal Survivors of Breast Cancer --- Results from a Subgroup in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Cancer 2005;104:1520-30. 

Languages Spoken:

Chinese and English

Currently Teaching:

EPI 573c : Advanced Epidemiology (fall semester)

EPI 678 : Public Health Informatics (spring semester)

Curriculum Vitae