Habibul Ahsan, MD, MMedSc



Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor of Public Health Sciences, Family Medicine, and Human Genetics Director, Institute for Population and Precision Health Director, Chicago Center for Health and Environment Associate Dean of Clinical Sciences Research


Dr. Ahsan’s research interests focus on studying the inter-relationships between environmental and genomic factors in cancer and other diseases and exploiting information on these relationships at a population level in developing and evaluating prevention interventions in humans.  Specifically, his research integrates the environmental, nutritional and life-style factors with measures of host factors and modern molecular genomics (involving DNA, RNA and protein variations) to understand the etiology, pathogenesis, prognosis and prevention of cancer and other disorders of national and international public health significance.  He has published extensively on the molecular epidemiology and prevention of health effects of arsenic exposure and also on the molecular and genetic epidemiology of breast and other cancers.  Dr. Ahsan’s recent NIH-funded and other major research projects include:


  • Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium (IPMC): As one of the three IPMC Principal Investigators of this NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program award, Dr. Ahsan and his IPMC colleagues are enrolling 150,000 participants through 14 Illinois medical centers into this national research resource of more than one million participants.


  • ChicAgo Center for Health and EnvironmenT (CACHET): Dr. Ahsan partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago to establish the first NIEHS P30 Environmental Health Core Center in Illinois.  The center will convene a diverse set of researchers from two major Chicago institutions to promote collaborative environmental health research through newly established facility cores, focus groups, pilot projects and career development initiatives.


  • Chicago Multiethnic Population And Surveillance Study (COMPASS): A population-based cohort study designed by researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine led by Dr. Ahsan to understand how lifestyle, healthcare-related factors, environment, and genetics (inherent tendency to acquire or avert disease) affect health. Over the next several years, COMPASS (http://compass.uchicago.edu) will evaluate many different scientific questions relating to lifestyle, environment, biological and other factors to identify the reasons why specific individuals or racial population subgroups have different risks of developing cancer and other chronic diseases. Identifying the causes of these diseases and their differences across population sub-groups will help us develop new strategies to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases among all Chicagoans.


  • Genome-wide Association Study of Risk and Prognosis of Early-onset Breast Cancer: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a multi-stage genome-wide association study to identify novel genes for breast cancer risk and prognosis among 6,800 young (<50 years) women from the US, Germany, Canada and Australia, including 3,800 population-based early-onset breast cancer cases and 3,000 population controls.


  • Meta-analyses of Genomewide Association Studies of Early-onset Breast Cancer Risk: As co-principal investigator of the NCI U-19 post-GWAS initiative, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues are leading a genome-wide association meta-analysis to identify genomic determinants of early-onset breast cancer risk among >12,000 cases and controls (<50 years) in collaboration with investigators from several breast cancer research consortiums across the world.


  • Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study [HEALS]: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a prospective cohort study of ~35,000 men and women in Bangladesh to investigate the intermediate- and long-term pre-malignant, malignant and non-malignant health effects of environmental arsenic exposure from drinking water.


  • Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) Center in Bangladesh: As a principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues direct research and training activities addressing health impacts of air pollution, garment industry job and climate change in partnership with other local and international institutions.


  • Planning Regional Center for Research Excellence in Non-Communicable Disease in Bangladesh: As a principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues direct a series of planning activities in partnership with other local and international institutions to establish a regional center of research excellence in non-communicable disease in Bangladesh.


  • Bangladesh vitamin E and Selenium Trial [BEST]: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a randomized placebo-controlled 2×2 factorial clinical trial of selenium and vitamin E supplementation among 7,000 individuals with pre-malignant skin lesions for the prevention of cancers and deaths.


  • Gene Environment Multi-Phenotype Studies (GEMS): By efficient sampling from HEALS and BEST cohorts Dr. Ahsan is leading a large-scale genomic study to integrate variations in SNPs, gene expression and DNA methylation across the genome to comprehensively evaluate their independent and joint effects on a range of clinical and molecular phenotypes among 6,000 well-characterized Bangladeshi individuals.


  • Postdoc (Molecular Epidemiology) 1993-1995, Columbia University
  • M.Med.Sc. (Epidemiology), 1992, University of Western Australia
  • M.B.B.S. 1988, Institute of Postgraduate Medicine & Research, Dhaka University


  • Scannell Bryan M, Argos M, Andrulis IL, Hopper JL, Chang-Claude J, Malone KE, John EM, Gammon MD, Daly MB, Terry MB, Buys SS, Huo D, Olopade OI, Genkinger JM, Whittemore AS, Jasmine F, Kibriya MG, Chen LS, Ahsan H. Germline variation and breast cancer incidence: A gene-based association study and whole-genome prediction of early onset breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2018 Jun 13. pii: cebp.1185.2018. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-17-1185. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29898891.
  • Pierce BL, Tong L, Argos M, Demanelis K, Jasmine F, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Islam MT, Shahriar H, Islam T, Rahman M, Yunus M, Kibriya MG, Chen LS, Ahsan H. Co-occurring expression and methylation QTLs allow detection of common causal variants and shared biological mechanisms. Nat Commun. 2018 Feb 23;9(1):804. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03209-9. PubMed PMID: 29476079; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5824840.
  • Delgado DA, Zhang C, Chen LS, Gao J, Roy S, Shinkle J, Sabarinathan M, Argos, M, Tong L, Ahmed A, Islam T, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Shahriar H, Rahman M, Yunus M, Jasmine F, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. Genome-wide association study of telomere length among South Asians identifies a second RTEL1 association signal. J Med Genet. 2018 Jan;55(1):64-71. doi: 10.1136/jmedgenet-2017-104922. Epub 2017 Nov 18. PubMed PMID: 29151059; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5749304.
  • Scannell Bryan M, Argos M, Andrulis IL, Hopper JL, Chang-Claude J, Malone K, John EM, Gammon MD, Daly M, Terry MB, Buys SS, Huo D, Olopade O, Genkinger JM, Jasmine F, Kibriya MG, Chen L, Ahsan H. Limited influence of germline genetic variation on all-cause mortality in women with early onset breast cancer: evidence from gene-based tests, single-marker regression, and whole-genome prediction. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2017 Aug;164(3):707-717. doi: 10.1007/s10549-017-4287-4. Epub 2017 May 13. PubMed PMID: 28503721; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5510603.
  • Pesola GR, Forde AT, Ahsan H. Screening for Shortness of Breath: Stretching the Screening Paradigm to Tertiary Prevention. Am J Public Health. 2017 Mar;107(3):386-388. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303625. PubMed PMID: 28177820; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5296705.
  • Jansen RJ, Argos M, Tong L, Li J, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Islam MT, Slavkovich V, Ahmed A, Navas-Acien A, Parvez F, Chen Y, Gamble MV, Graziano JH, Pierce BL, Ahsan H. Determinants and Consequences of Arsenic Metabolism Efficiency among 4,794 Individuals: Demographics, Lifestyle, Genetics, and Toxicity. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 Feb;25(2):381-90. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0718. Epub 2015 Dec 16. PubMed PMID: 26677206; PubMed
    Central PMCID: PMC4767610.
  • Aschebrook-Kilfoy B, Argos M, Pierce BL, Tong L, Jasmine F, Roy S, Parvez F, Ahmed A, Islam T, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H. Genome-wide association study of parity in Bangladeshi women. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 5;10(3):e0118488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118488. eCollection 2015. PubMed PMID: 25742292; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4350917.
  • Pierce BL, Tong L, Chen LS, Rahaman R, Argos M, Jasmine F, Roy S, Paul-Brutus R, Westra HJ, Franke L, Esko T, Zaman R, Islam T, Rahman M, Baron JA, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H. Mediation Analysis Demonstrates That Trans-eQTLs Are Often Explained by Cis-Mediation: A Genome-Wide Analysis among 1,800 South Asians. PLoS Genet 2014 Dec 4;10(12):Dec. PubMed PMID: 25474530; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4256471.
  • Argos M, Chen L, Jasmine F, Tong L, Pierce BL, Roy S, Paul-Brutus R, Gamble MV, Harper KN, Parvez F, Rahman M, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Slavkovich V, Baron JA, Graziano JH, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H. Gene-Specific Differential DNA Methylation and Chronic Arsenic Exposure in an Epigenome-Wide Association Study of Adults in Bangladesh. Environ Health Perspect 2014 Oct 17. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25325195.
  • Ahsan H, Halpern J, Kibriya MG, Pierce BL, Tong L, Gamazon ER, McGuire V,Felberg A, Shi J, Jasmine F, Roy S, Paul-Brutus R, Argos M, Melkonian S, Chang-Claude J, Andrulis IL, Hopper JL, John EM, Malone KE, Ursin G, Gammon MD, Thomas DC, Seminara D, Casey G, Knight JA, Southey MC, Giles GG, Santella RM, Lee E, Conti DV, Duggan D, Gallinger S, Haile RW, Jenkins MA, Lindor NM, Newcomb PA, Michailidou K, Apicella C, Park DJ, Peto J, Fletcher O, Dos Santos Silva I, Lathrop M, Hunter DJ, Chanock SJ, Meindl A, Schmutzler RK, Muller-Myhsok B, Lochmann M, Beckmann M, Hein R, Makalic E, Schmidt DF, Bui QM, Stone J, Flesch-Janys D, Dahmen N, Nevanlinna H, Aittomäki K, Blomqvist C, Hall P, Czene K, Irwanto A, Liu J, Rahman N, Turnbull C, Dunning AM, Pharoah PD, Waisfisz Q, Meijers-Heijboer HE, Uitterlinden AG, Rivadeneira F, Nicolae D, Easton DF, Cox NJ, Whittermore AS. A Genome-wide Association Study of Early-onset Breast Cancer Identifies PFKM as a Novel Breast Cancer Gene and Supports a Common Genetic Spectrum for Breast Cancer at Any Age. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Feb 3. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 24493630.
  • Argos M, Melkonian S, Parvez F, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Ahmed A, Chen Y, Ahsan H. A population-based prospective study of energy-providing nutrients in relation to all-cause cancer mortality and cancers of digestive organs mortality. Int J Cancer. 2013 May 3:0. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28250. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23650102.
  • Wu F, Chen Y, Parvez F, Segers S, Argos M, Islam T, Ahmed A, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Hasan R, Sarwar G, Ahsan H. A prospective study of tobacco smoking and mortality in Bangladesh. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58516. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058516. Epub 2013 Mar 11. PubMed PMID: 23505526; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3594295.
  • Ahsan H, Steinmaus C. Invited commentary: use of arsenical skin lesions to predict risk of internal cancer: implications for prevention and future research. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Feb 1;177(3):213-6. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws366. Epub 2013 Jan 7. PubMed PMID: 23299696; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3555485.
  • Chen Y, Wu F, Graziano JH, Parvez F, Liu M, Paul RR, Shaheen I, Sarwar G, Ahmed A, Islam T, Slavkovich V, Rundek T, Demmer RT, Desvarieux M, Ahsan H. Arsenic Exposure From Drinking Water, Arsenic Methylation Capacity, and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness in Bangladesh. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Jun 20. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23788675.
  • Chen Y, Wu F, Liu M, Parvez F, Slavkovich V, Eunus M, Ahmed A, Argos M, Islam T, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Hasan R, Sarwar G, Levy D, Graziano J, Ahsan H. A prospective study of arsenic exposure, arsenic methylation capacity, and risk of cardiovascular disease in bangladesh. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Jul;121(7):832-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205797. Epub 2013 May 8. PubMed PMID: 23665672; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3701993.
  • Pierce B, Kibriya MG, Tong L, Jasmine F, Argos M, Roy S, Rahaman R, Islam T, Parvez F, Melkonian S, Slavkovich V, Chen Y, Gamble MV, Graziano JH, Ahsan H. Genome-wide association study identifies 10q24.32 variants associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet 2012; 8(2): e1002522. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002522.
  • Jasmine F, Rahaman, R, Dodsworth C, Roy S, Paul R, Raza M, Kamal M, Ahsan H, Kibriya MG. Detection of cytogentic changes in colorectal cancer among paired tumor and surrounding healthy tissue using a genome-wide high density microarray: association with tumor characteristics and clinical relevance for individualized treatment. PLoS ONE 2012; PLoS ONE 7(2): e31968. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031968.
  • Chen Y, Graziano JH, Parvez F, Liu M, Slavkovich V, Kalra T, Argos T, Islam T, Ahmed A, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Hasan R, Levy D, van Geen D and Ahsan H. Arsenic Exposure from Drinking Water and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study in Bangladesh. BMJ 2011 May 5;342:d2431. PubMed PMID: 21576319.
  • Pierce BL, Ahsan H. Genome-wide “Pleiotropy Scan” Identifies HNF1A Region as a Novel Pancreatic Cancer Susceptibility Locus. Cancer Res 2011; April 15. PubMed PMID: 21498636.
  • Zheng W, McLerran DF, Rolland B, Zhang X, Inoue M, Matsuo K, He J, Gupta PC, Ramadas K, Tsugane S, Irie F, Tamakoshi A, Gao YT, Wang R, Shu XO, Tsuji I, Kuriyama S, Tanaka H, Satoh H, Chen CJ, Yuan JM, Yoo KY, Ahsan H., Pan WH, Gu D, Pednekar MS, Sauvaget C, Sasazuki S, Sairenchi T, Yang G, Xiang YB, Nagai M, Suzuki T, Nishino Y, You SL, Koh WP, Park SK, Chen Y, Shen CY, Thornquist M, Feng Z, Kang D, Boffetta P, Potter JD. Association between body-mass index and risk of death in more than 1 million Asians. N Engl J Med. 2011 Feb 24;364(8):719-29. PubMed PMID: 21345101.
  • Pierce BL, Ahsan H. Clinical assessment incorporating a personal genome. Lancet. 2010 Sep 11;376(9744):869; author reply 869-70. PubMed PMID: 20833292.
  • Argos M, Kalra T, Rathouz PJ, Chen Y, Pierce B, Parvez F, Islam T, Ahmed A, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Hasan R, Sarwar G, Slavkovich V, van Geen A, Graziano J, Ahsan H. Arsenic exposure from drinking water, and all-cause and chronic-disease mortalities in Bangladesh (HEALS): a prospective cohort study. Lancet.2010 Jul 24;376(9737):252-8. Epub 2010 Jun 18. PubMed PMID: 20646756.
  • Parvez F, Chen Y, Brandt-Rauf PW, Slavkovich V, Islam T, Ahmed A, Argos M, Hassan R, Yunus M, Haque SE, Balac O, Graziano JH, Ahsan H. A prospective study of respiratory symptoms associated with chronic arsenic exposure in Bangladesh: findings from the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS). Thorax. 2010 Jun;65(6):528-33. PubMed PMID: 20522851.
  • Chen Y, Kibriya MG, Jasmine F, Santella RM, Senie RT, Ahsan H. Do placental genes affect maternal breast cancer? Association between offspring”s CGB5 and CSH1 gene variants and maternal breast cancer risk. Cancer Res. 2008 Dec 1;68(23):9729-34. PubMed PMID: 19047151; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2779753.
  • Kaklamani VG, Wisinski KB, Sadim M, Gulden C, Do A, Offit K, Baron JA, Ahsan H., Mantzoros C, Pasche B. Variants of the adiponectin (ADIPOQ) and adiponectin receptor 1 (ADIPOR1) genes and colorectal cancer risk. JAMA. 2008 Oct 1;300(13):1523-31. PubMed PMID: 18827209; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2628475.
  • Kaklamani VG, Sadim M, Hsi A, Offit K, Oddoux C, Ostrer H, Ahsan H., Pasche B, Mantzoros C. Variants of the adiponectin and adiponectin receptor 1 genes and breast cancer risk. Cancer Res. 2008 May 1;68(9):3178-84. PubMed PMID: 18451143; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2685173.
  • Gamble MV, Liu X, Slavkovich V, Pilsner JR, Ilievski V, Factor-Litvak P, Levy D, Alam S, Islam M, Parvez F, Ahsan H., Graziano JH. Folic acid supplementation lowers blood arsenic. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):1202-9. PubMed PMID: 17921403; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2042963.
  • Pilsner JR, Liu X, Ahsan H., Ilievski V, Slavkovich V, Levy D, Factor-Litvak P, Graziano JH, Gamble MV. Genomic methylation of peripheral blood leukocyte DNA: influences of arsenic and folate in Bangladeshi adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):1179-86. PubMed PMID: 17921400.
  • Heck JE, Gamble MV, Chen Y, Graziano JH, Slavkovich V, Parvez F, Baron JA, Howe GR, Ahsan H.Consumption of folate-related nutrients and metabolism of arsenic in Bangladesh. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1367-74. PubMed PMID: 17490975.
  • Chen Y, Factor-Litvak P, Howe GR, Parvez F, Ahsan H. Nutritional influence on risk of high blood pressure in Bangladesh: a population-based cross-sectional study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1224-32. PubMed PMID: 17093178.
  • Gamble MV, Liu X, Ahsan H., Pilsner JR, Ilievski V, Slavkovich V, Parvez F, Chen Y, Levy D, Factor-Litvak P, Graziano JH. Folate and arsenic metabolism: a double-blind, placebo-controlled folic acid-supplementation trial in Bangladesh. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Nov;84(5):1093-101. PubMed PMID: 17093162; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2046214.
  • Gamble MV, Ahsan H., Liu X, Factor-Litvak P, Ilievski V, Slavkovich V, Parvez F, Graziano JH. Folate and cobalamin deficiencies and hyperhomocysteinemia in Bangladesh. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jun;81(6):1372-7. PubMed PMID: 15941889; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2204145.
  • Bian Y, Caldes T, Wijnen J, Franken P, Vasen H, Kaklamani V, Nafa K, Peterlongo P, Ellis N, Baron JA, Burn J, Moeslein G, Morrison PJ, Chen Y, Ahsan H., Watson P, Lynch HT, de la Chapelle A, Fodde R, Pasche B. TGFBR1*6A may contribute to hereditary colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2005 May 1;23(13):3074-8. PubMed PMID: 15860866.
  • Kaklamani VG, Baddi L, Liu J, Rosman D, Phukan S, Bradley C, Hegarty C, McDaniel B, Rademaker A, Oddoux C, Ostrer H, Michel LS, Huang H, Chen Y, Ahsan H., Offit K, Pasche B. Combined genetic assessment of transforming growth factor-beta signaling pathway variants may predict breast cancer risk. Cancer Res. 2005 Apr 15;65(8):3454-61. Erratum in: Cancer Res. 2006 Mar 15;66(6):3345. PubMed PMID: 15833881.
  • Ahsan H., Thomas DC. Lung cancer etiology: independent and joint effects of genetics, tobacco, and arsenic. JAMA. 2004 Dec 22;292(24):3026-9. PubMed PMID: 15613673.
  • Ahsan H., Neugut AI, Garbowski GC, Jacobson JS, Forde KA, Treat MR, Waye JD. Family history of colorectal adenomatous polyps and increased risk for colorectal cancer. Ann Intern Med. 1998 Jun 1;128(11):900-5. PubMed PMID: 9634428.
  • Chow WH, Blot WJ, Vaughan TL, Risch HA, Gammon MD, Stanford JL, Dubrow R, Schoenberg JB, Mayne ST, Farrow DC, Ahsan H., West AB, Rotterdam H, Niwa S, Fraumeni JF Jr. Body mass index and risk of adenocarcinomas of the esophagus and gastric cardia. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998 Jan 21;90(2):150-5. PubMed PMID: 9450576.
  • Ahsan H., Neugut AI. Radiation therapy for breast cancer and increased risk for esophageal carcinoma. Ann Intern Med. 1998 Jan 15;128(2):114-7. PubMed PMID: 9441571.
  • Gammon MD, Schoenberg JB, Ahsan H., Risch HA, Vaughan TL, Chow WH, Rotterdam H, West AB, Dubrow R, Stanford JL, Mayne ST, Farrow DC, Niwa S, Blot WJ, Fraumeni JF Jr. Tobacco, alcohol, and socioeconomic status and adenocarcinomas of the esophagus and gastric cardia. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1997 Sep 3;89(17):1277-84. PubMed PMID: 9293918.
  • Ahsan H., Neugut AI, Bruce JN. Association of malignant brain tumors and cancers of other sites. J Clin Oncol. 1995 Dec;13(12):2931-5. PubMed PMID:8523057.

  • Professor, Department of Human Genetics
  • Professor, Section of Genetic Medicine, Department of Medicine
  • Professor, Biological Sciences Collegiate Division
  • Director, Center for Epidemiology and Prevention
  • Pritzker Fellow, Biological Sciences Division
  • Professor, Committee on Cancer Biology, Biological Science Division
  • Senior Fellow, Institute of Genetics and Systems Biology
  • Member, National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council (NAEHSC)
  • CEO & Chairman, UChicago Research Bangladesh (http://www.urb-bd.org/)


  • PHS 40500: Advanced Epidemiologic Methods (with Dr. Huo)