Zhao Chen

Zhao Chen

Department Chair, Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Professor, Public Health
Professor, Anthropology
Professor, Statistics-GIDP
Distinguished Professor, Public Health
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Primary Department
(520) 626-9011

Research Interest

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH, has been focused on epidemiologic research of women's health and aging-related health conditions. She has a wealth of experience in studying body composition assessments, breast cancer risk factors, fracture risk in cancer survivors, osteoporosis prevention, epidemiology of anemia, biomarker and genetic variations for chronic diseases and sarcopenia measurements among women and elderly from different ethnic backgrounds. She is a member of the Arizona Cancer Center, Arizona Center on Aging, Arizona Arthritis Center and BIO5. She is a funded researcher by the National Health Institute (NIH), and has served on numerous scientific study sections for the NIH and other funding agencies nationally and internationally. Dr. Chen also has an affiliated faculty appointment with the School of Anthropology.Her work with the U.S. Women's Health Initiative study has produced several significant research papers on epidemiologic methodology and osteoporosis risk factors in diverse populations. Her findings on increased fracture risk among breast cancer survivors have caught wide public attention, thus making a significant contribution to the prevention of fractures in the large number of breast cancer survivors. Her research on mammographic density as a proxy of breast cancer risk has provided direct evidences on significant associations between body composition, dietary intake, and mammographic density. The study findings on changes in body composition and hip structural geometry with intervention and aging have contributed to osteoporosis prevention and healthy aging research. Currently, she is leading investigations on longitudinal changes in bone strength and skeletal muscle loss associated with aging and hormone and calcium/vitamin D interventions. Her research on biomarkers and genetic variations for sarcopenia is supported by the National Institute of Aging/NIH. She has also received NIH funding to study anemia and its relationship with muscle loss, physical function, and mortality in Mexican American, Africa American, Native American, Asian, and Non-Hispanic white postmenopausal women. In the recent years, she has been working with several large worldwide consortiums on genome-wide association studies for sarcopenia and anemia.Besides teaching in classes, Dr. Chen has been providing research training opportunities to students especially minority students from underserved populations. Under her direction, graduate students in her laboratory are conducting research in many aspects of women's health and aging. Some examples of the research areas include arthritis and osteoporosis in women, anemia and cardiovascular diseases, physical functional assessments in the elderly, and relationship of growth factors with breast cancer risk. With the growing elderly population in the United States, osteoporosis, sarcopenia and anemia have become more significant public health problems. In responding to the community's needs, she frequently gives community health lectures and provides opportunities of health screening and education to publics. Dr. Chen is working on building a strong research and health promotion program to contribute to healthy aging in people from all ethnic backgrounds.


Chen, Z., & Chen, Z. (2017). Large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies five loci for lean body mass.. Nat Commun, 8(1), 80. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00031-7

Nat Commun. 2017 Jul 19;8(1):80. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00031-7.Large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies five loci for lean body mass.Zillikens MC1,2, Demissie S3, Hsu YH4,5,6, Yerges-Armstrong LM7, Chou WC4,5,8, Stolk L1,2, Livshits G9,10, Broer L11, Johnson T12,13,14, Koller DL15, Kutalik Z12,13,14, Luan J16, Malkin I9, Ried JS17, Smith AV18,19, Thorleifsson G20, Vandenput L21, Hua Zhao J16, Zhang W22,23, Aghdassi A24, Åkesson K25,26, Amin N11, Baier LJ27, Barroso I28,29,30, Bennett DA31, Bertram L32,33, Biffar R34, Bochud M14, Boehnke M35, Borecki IB36,37, Buchman AS31, Byberg L38, Campbell H39, Campos Obanda N1, Cauley JA40, Cawthon PM41, Cederberg H42, Chen Z43, Cho NH44, Jin Choi H45,46, Claussnitzer M4,5,8,47,48,49, Collins F50, Cummings SR41, De Jager PL5,51,52, Demuth I53,54, Dhonukshe-Rutten RAM55, Diatchenko L56,57, Eiriksdottir G18, Enneman AW1, Erdos M50, Eriksson JG58,59,60,61,62, Eriksson J21, Estrada K1,11, Evans DS41, Feitosa MF36, Fu M7, Garcia M63, Gieger C17,64,65, Girke T66,67, Glazer NL68, Grallert H17,64,67,69,70,71, Grewal J23,72, Han BG73, Hanson RL27, Hayward C74, Hofman A2,11, Hoffman EP75, Homuth G76, Hsueh WC27, Hubal MJ77,78, Hubbard A79, Huffman KM80, Husted LB81, Illig T64,82,83, Ingelsson E84,85, Ittermann T86, Jansson JO87, Jordan JM88, Jula A62, Karlsson M89, Khaw KT90, Kilpeläinen TO16,91,92, Klopp N64,83, Kloth JSL1, Koistinen HA93,94,95,96, Kraus WE97, Kritchevsky S98, Kuulasmaa T42, Kuusisto J42, Laakso M42, Lahti J99, Lang T100, Langdahl BL81, Launer LJ63, Lee JY73, Lerch MM24, Lewis JR101,102, Lind L84, Lindgren C103, Liu Y104, Liu T105,106, Liu Y88, Ljunggren Ö84, Lorentzon M21, Luben RN90, Maixner W57, McGuigan FE25, Medina-Gomez C1,11, Meitinger T48,107, Melhus H84, Mellström D21, Melov S108,109, Michaëlsson K38, Mitchell BD7,110, Morris AP103,111, Mosekilde L81, Newman A112, Nielson CM113, O'Connell JR7, Oostra BA114,115, Orwoll ES113, Palotie A116,117, Parker SCJ118, Peacock M119, Perola M62,116,120,121, Peters A17,64, Polasek O122, Prince RL101,123, Räikkönen K99, Ralston SH124, Ripatti S116,125,28, Robbins JA126, Rotter JI127, Rudan I39, Salomaa V62, Satterfield S128, Schadt EE129, Schipf S86, Scott L35, Sehmi J23,72, Shen J113, Soo Shin C45, Sigurdsson G19,130, Smith S131, Soranzo N28, Stančáková A42, Steinhagen-Thiessen E53, Streeten EA7,132, Styrkarsdottir U20, Swart KMA133, Tan ST23,72, Tarnopolsky MA134, Thompson P135, Thomson CA43, Thorsteinsdottir U19,20, Tikkanen E62,116,124, Tranah GJ41, Tuomilehto J61,136,137,138, van Schoor NM133, Verma A23, Vollenweider P139, Völzke H86, Wactawski-Wende J140, Walker M141, Weedon MN142, Welch R35, Wichmann HE17,143,144, Widen E116, Williams FMK10, Wilson JF39,74, Wright NC145, Xie W142, Yu L31, Zhou Y3, Chambers JC22,23,146,147, Döring A17,148, van Duijn CM11,115, Econs MJ149, Gudnason V18,19, Kooner JS23,72,147, Psaty BM150,151, Spector TD10, Stefansson K19,20, Rivadeneira F1,2,11, Uitterlinden AG1,2,11, Wareham NJ16, Ossowski V27, Waterworth D152, Loos RJF16,153,154,155,156, Karasik D4,5,157, Harris TB63, Ohlsson C21, Kiel DP158,159,160.Author informationErratum inErratum: Large meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies identifies five loci for lean body mass. [Nat Commun. 2017]AbstractLean body mass, consisting mostly of skeletal muscle, is important for healthy aging. We performed a genome-wide association study for whole body (20 cohorts of European ancestry with n = 38,292) and appendicular (arms and legs) lean body mass (n = 28,330) measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry or bioelectrical impedance analysis, adjusted for sex, age, height, and fat mass. Twenty-one single-nucleotide polymorphisms were significantly associated with lean body mass either genome wide (p  5 × 10-8) or suggestively genome wide (p  2.3 × 10-6). Replication in 63,475 (47,227 of European ancestry) individuals from 33 cohorts for whole body lean body mass and in 45,090 (42,360 of European ancestry) subjects from 25 cohorts for appendicular lean body mass was successful for five single-nucleotide polymorphisms in/near HSD17B11, VCAN, ADAMTSL3, IRS1, and FTO for total lean body mass and for three single-nucleotide polymorphisms in/near VCAN, ADAMTSL3, and IRS1 for appendicular lean body mass. Our findings provide new insight into the genetics of lean body mass.Lean body mass is a highly heritable trait and is associated with various health conditions. Here, Kiel and colleagues perform a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for whole body lean body mass and find five novel genetic loci to be significantly associated.PMID: 28724990 PMCID: PMC5517526 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00031-7 Free PMC Article

Beasley, J. M., Wertheim, B. C., LaCroix, A. Z., Prentice, R. L., Neuhouser, M. L., Tinker, L. F., Kritchevsky, S., Shikany, J. M., Eaton, C., Chen, Z., & Thomson, C. A. (2013). Biomarker-calibrated protein intake and physical function in the Women's Health Initiative. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 61(11).

To determine whether preservation of physical function with aging may be partially met through modification in dietary protein intake.

Chen, Z. (2015). Effect of Age of Self-Reported, Non-Surgical Menopause on Time to First Fracture and areal Bone Mineral Density in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Menopause, 22(10), 1035-44.

Menopause. 2015 Oct;22(10):1035-44. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000451.EFFECTS OF SELF-REPORTED AGE AT NONSURGICAL MENOPAUSE ON TIME TO FIRST FRACTURE AND BONE MINERAL DENSITY IN THE WOMEN'S HEALTH INITIATIVE OBSERVATIONAL STUDY.Sullivan SD1, Lehman A, Thomas F, Johnson KC, Jackson R, Wactawski-Wende J, Ko M, Chen Z, Curb JD, Howard BV.

Ochs-Balcom, H. M., Preus, L., Wactawski-Wende, J., Nie, J., Johnson, N. A., Zakharia, F., Tang, H., Carlson, C., Carty, C., Chen, Z., Hoffman, T., Hutter, C. M., Jackson, R. D., Kaplan, R. C., Li, L., Liu, S., Neuhouser, M. L., Peters, U., Robbins, J., , Seldin, M. F., et al. (2013). Association of DXA-derived bone mineral density and fat mass with African ancestry. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 98(4).

Both genes and environment have been implicated in determining the complex body composition phenotypes in individuals of European ancestry; however, few studies have been conducted in other race/ethnic groups.

Chen, Z. -. (2013). Historical Relationships between Biological Anthropology and Body Composition. ACTA Anthropologica Sinica, 32(3), 16-23.

Chen Z. Historical Relationships between Biological Anthropology and Body Composition. ACTA Anthropologica Sinica, August 2013, 32(3).