Julia Brody, PhD
Dr. Julia Brody, executive director and senior scientist, leads Silent Spring Institute’s strategic approach to uncovering the environmental links to breast cancer. She is a nationally recognized expert on environmental chemicals and breast cancer, as well as a leader in community-based research and public engagement in science.
Dr. Brody’s current research focuses on reporting back to people who participate in environmental health studies to inform them of their own chemical exposures. Her team developed the Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface (DERBI)—a web-based tool for making high-quality personalized reports practical in studies of any size, and is currently adapting the tool for smartphone-based reports. She is also studying what Americans know about endocrine disruptors—as part of the emerging field of environmental health literacy.
Her interest in returning exposure results grew out of Silent Spring Institute’s Household Exposure Study, the first comprehensive assessment of exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds in homes. Results were the first to show that consumer products are a major source of people’s exposure to these chemicals. The study later expanded from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Richmond and Bolinas, California, in a project connecting breast cancer advocacy and environmental justice. The study was the first to discover high exposures to flame retardants in California, ultimately leading to revisions in the state’s flammability standards, which had implications nationwide.
Dr. Brody led a critical review of epidemiologic studies published in the past ten years on breast cancer and environmental pollutants. The study was a follow-up to a landmark state-of-the-science report she led that was published in 2007 in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer. The report included a review on animal mammary gland carcinogens, which provided a roadmap for studying these chemicals in humans. Brody was the principal investigator of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, including a case-control study of 2,100 women. The study was the first to measure estrogenic chemicals in groundwater and in drinking water.
Brody’s research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the California Breast Cancer Research Program, and the National Science Foundation. She is the co-PI of an NIH T32 training grant in collaboration with Northeastern University. Her research collaborators also include investigators at Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Dr. Brody’s research with an Environmental Merit Award in 2000. In 2002, she presented one of the Distinguished Lectures at the National Cancer Institute and spoke at the 2009 President’s Cancer Panel where she highlighted the need to integrate biological evidence with human studies to prevent cancers. She has served on the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council and is currently an advisor to the California Breast Cancer Research Program and breast cancer activist organizations.
Dr. Brody is an adjunct assistant professor at the Brown University School of Medicine. She earned her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin and her AB at Harvard University.
Publications & Presentations
Boronow, K.E., H.P. Susmann, K.Z. Gajos, R.A. Rudel, K.C. Arnold, P. Brown, R. Morello-Frosch, L. Havas, J.G. Brody. 2017. DERBI: A Digital Method to Help Researchers Offer “Right-to-Know” Personal Exposure Results. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(2):A27-A33. doi:10.1289/EHP702.
Rodgers, K.M., J.O. Udesky, R.A. Rudel, J.G. Brody. 2018. Environmental chemicals and breast cancer: An updated review of epidemiological literature informed by biological mechanisms. Environmental Research. 160:152-182.
Perovich, L.J., J.L. Ohayon, E.M. Cousins, R. Morello-Frosch, P. Brown, G. Adamkiewicz, J.G. Brody. 2018. Reporting to parents on children’s exposures to asthma triggers in low-income and public housing, an interview-based case study of ethics, environmental literacy, individual action, and public health benefits. Environmental Health, 17(48). doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0395-9.
Brody, J.G., S.C. Dunagan, R. Morello-Frosch, P. Brown, S. Patton, R.A. Rudel. 2014. Reporting individual results for biomonitoring and environmental exposures: lessons learned from environmental communication case studies. Environmental Health, 13(40). doi:10.1186/1476-069X-13-40
Brody, J.G., R. Morello-Frosch, A. Zota, P. Brown, C. Perez, R.A. Rudel. 2009. Linking Exposure Assessment Science with Policy Objectives for Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Advocacy: The Northern California Household Exposure Study. American Journal of Public Health, 99 Suppl 3, Suppl 3:S600-S609. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2008.149088
Terry, M.B., K.B. Michels, J.G. Brody, C. Byrne, S. Chen, D.J. Jerry, K.M.C. Malecki, M.B. Martin, R.L. Miller, S.L. Neuhausen, K. Silk, A. Trentham-Dietz, & on behalf of Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP). 2019. Environmental exposures during windows of susceptibility for breast cancer: a framework for prevention research. Breast Cancer Research. DOI: 10.1186/s13058-019-1168-2