Population Sciences in the Pacific Program

The Population Sciences in the Pacific (PSP) Program's mission is to understand and eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in cancer and to reduce overall cancer incidence and mortality in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. Conducting research in synergy with the Cancer Biology (CB) program to reduce the burden of cancer in the catchment area, the PSP program advances the mission of the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center. The program currently consists of 37 members representing diverse disciplines: molecular and nutritional epidemiology, bioinformatics, biophysics, clinical and health psychology, public health, and social work. Members engage in community outreach and training across career stages. PSP consists of two program areas:

Cancer Epidemiology

Cancer Epidemiology focuses on understanding the causes of cancer. A main goal of Cancer Epidemiology is to identify determinants of cancer risk and progression that drive the racial/ethnic differences in cancer incidence and mortality in Hawaiʻi.

Cancer Epidemiology members address the causes of commonly occurring cancers in the state, such as breast, lung, colorectal, liver, and pancreatic cancers. Research areas include diet, nutrition, obesity, physical activity, infectious agents, tobacco products, betel nut, epigenetic, genetic, artificial intelligence, and other factors that cause susceptibility to cancers, microbiome, and risk prediction.

Cancer Epidemiology members have made seminal discoveries in understanding the mechanisms of ethnic/racial differences in lung cancer risk and the variations of body fat distribution across multiethnic populations. Members have ongoing studies in areas of dietary interventions, body fat distribution, genomic research, and computational imaging science across diverse populations.

Cancer Prevention

Cancer Prevention seeks to reduce racial/ethnic disparities in cancer in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific through community-based behavioral research and through development, implementation, and dissemination of cancer prevention interventions. Cancer Prevention members lead and participate in several national and regional coalitions of academic research centers and community health organizations seeking to reduce the burden of cancer in Hawaiʻi and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI).

Cancer Prevention members have been in the forefront of research on e-cigarette use etiology and prevention, and betel nut use cessation. Members have ongoing studies in areas of rural cancer care coordination, clinical trial accrual of minority populations, and cancer survivorship.  These studies have true potential to make significant impact in the catchment area. A highlight of Cancer Prevention is the multiyear Pacific Island Partnership for Cancer Health Equity (PIPCHE) project funded through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (CPACHE) initiative. PIPCHE seeks to build research infrastructure in Guam and beyond with the purpose of fostering cancer research in the USAPI.


Cancer Epidemiology has established valuable resources for population research including the Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry (HTR), a state-wide tumor registry responsible for cancer surveillance in Hawaiʻi, and the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a study that follows over 215,000 residents of Hawaiʻi and Los Angeles of five main ethnic groups. Cancer At a Glance, a part of HTR, is a document that is updated on a regular basis to summarize the information collected by the Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry.