Disparities Epidemiology in ChrOnic Diseases and the Environment

The DECODE lab uses classic and molecular epidemiologic tools to examine environmental and biologic heterogeneity and susceptibility of cancer and other chronic diseases. Our research examines how social determinants of health influence disparate disease outcomes through a transdisciplinary social-genomic perspective. Social determinants of health are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. We focus on a few specific social domains: neighborhoods and built environment, health care access and quality, and the social and community contexts.

We are currently studying the interaction between the built environment, stress, inflammation, and the development of ovarian, prostate, colorectal, and other cancers. These projects have received funding from the NIH, CDC, and DOD. Another research project examines the impact of environmental stressors on chronic disease disparities in mental and behavioral health in women. Our team recently received NIH NIA funding to investigate the effects of social stressors on epigenetic age acceleration and chronic health disparities and test whether the social environment, individual health behaviors, and race/geography/SES modify or mediate the association between traumatic stress and health (disparities), directly or indirectly through biologic age acceleration.

Lab Team:

Edward S. Peters, DMD, SM, SM, ScD, FACE - Professor, Department Chair and Lab Director
Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, PhD - Professor
Kendra L. Ratnapradipa, PhD - Assistant Professor
Sierra Garth, MPH - Research Project Coordinator
Christopher PiersonPhD Student

  • Tingting Li, MPH – PhD Student
  • Meghan Brashear, MPH – Data Scientist


  • Ariane Rung, PhD LSUHSC School of Public Health
  • Madhav KC, PhD – Yale University Cancer Center
  • Joellen Schildkraut, PhD – Emory University School of Public Health
  • Nicole Nugent, PhD – Brown University School of Medicine
  • Alicia Smith, PhD – Emory University School of Medicine
  • Laura Rozek, PhD – Georgetown Cancer Center
  • Kristen Purrington, PhD – Wayne State University College of Medicine Oncology