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Monitoring Risk & Health Behaviors

Biomarkers: Current Projects

  • The Observing Protein and Energy Nutrition (OPEN) Study collected biomarkers of energy expenditure (doubly labeled water) and nitrogen, sodium, and potassium intakes (urinary nitrogen, sodium, and potassium) to assess the structure of measurement error in two types of self-report dietary assessment instruments: 24-hour recalls and food frequency questionnaires (FFQs). Respondents were 484 adult men and women from the suburban Washington, DC area. These data were used to assess the degree of misreporting on recalls and FFQs, as well as the ability of recalls to adjust for measurement error associated with FFQs. Ongoing work involves assessing relationships between serum carotenoid levels and dietary measures of individual carotenoids.
  • The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), conducted from 1988-1994 by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), involved a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. Serum samples were available for 6061 subjects and were analyzed for insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) and IGF-Binding Protein 3 (IGFBP-3). These biomarkers were analyzed in relation to race/ethnicity, body composition, metabolic syndrome, dietary characteristics, and physical activity. These data are available as part of the NHANES III dataset. Staff have collaborated with biostatisticians to simulate and test new ways to combine dietary and biomarker nutrient estimates. The studies (Freedman et al., 2010a; Freedman et al., 2010b) show increased power for the combined variable and a potentially increased ability to observe associations between nutritional factors and cancer outcomes. Work continues with different combination methods and different datasets.
  • The development of new diet and physical activity assessment tools (e.g., the NCI-developed, Web-based Automated Self-administered 24-hour Recall [ASA24] and Activities Completed over Time in 24 Hours [ACT-24]) and the importance and relevance of large recovery biomarker studies suggest a need to evaluate new instruments and incorporate more accurate measures of energy expenditure into future studies. ARP staff have initiated large diet and physical activity validation studies in collaboration with extramural researchers (e.g., see Biomarker-Based Validation of Diet and Physical Activity Assessment Tools in Existing Cohorts [PDF]). These studies will incorporate doubly-labeled water, blood and urine samples, FFQs, the ASA24, physical activity monitors and questionnaires, the ACT-24, and potentially other dietary, body composition, and physical activity measures. Evaluation of the interrelationships among these energy balance measures will provide critical insights for improving the assessment of energy-cancer relationships and the determinants of obesity.
  • OAD staff organized a workshop at the June 2010 International Cancer Screening Network (ICSN) conference to discuss the potential for including biomarkers in screening efforts. Conference planners recognized that ICSN countries participating in organized cancer screening programs might have data systems that could serve as a resource for validation research of biomarkers identified from much more selected and potentially biased samples of people. Speakers commented on study designs for biomarkers validation research and highlighted best practices and lessons learned. Future ICSN meetings will likely include further sessions devoted to screening-related biomarker work.


  1. Freedman LS, Kipnis V, Schatzkin A, Tasevska N, Potischman N. Can we use biomarkers in combination with self-reports to strengthen the analysis of nutritional epidemiologic studies? Epidemiol Perspect Innov 2010 Jan 20;7(1):2. [View Abstract] [Read Full Text]
  2. Freedman LS, Tasevska N, Kipnis V, Schatzkin A, Mares J, Tinker L, Potischman N. Gains in statistical power from using a dietary biomarker in combination with self-reported intake to strengthen the analysis of a diet-disease relationship -- an example from CAREDS. Am J Epidemiol 2010 (In Press).

Last Modified: 11 Apr 2014