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Am J Public Health. 2016 Sep;106(9):1540-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303343. Epub 2016 Jul 26.

The Impact of the Nurses' Health Study on Population Health: Prevention, Translation, and Control.

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Graham A. Colditz and Sydney E. Philpott are with the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center, St Louis, MO. Susan E. Hankinson is with the Channing Division of Network Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston; and the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.



To summarize the overall impact of the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) over the past 40 years on the health of populations through its contributions on prevention, translation, and control.


We performed a narrative review of the findings of the NHS, NHS II, and NHS3 between 1976 and 2016.


The NHS has generated significant findings about the associations between (1) smoking and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, colorectal and pancreatic cancer, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and eye diseases; (2) physical activity and cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, psoriasis, and neurodegeneration; (3) obesity and cardiovascular diseases, numerous cancer sites, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, kidney stones, and eye diseases; (4) oral contraceptives and cardiovascular disease, melanoma, and breast, colorectal, and ovarian cancer; (5) hormone therapy and cardiovascular diseases, breast and endometrial cancer, and neurodegeneration; (6) endogenous hormones and breast cancer; (7) dietary factors and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, breast and pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, neurodegeneration, multiple sclerosis, kidney stones, and eye diseases; and (8) sleep and shift work and chronic diseases.


The NHS findings have influenced public health policy and practice both locally and globally to improve women's health.

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