Behavioral Research

Addressing Risk Factors for Cancer

Behavior and lifestyle can have significant implications for cancer risk and prevention. In fact, tobacco use, poor diet and lack of exercise are implicated in 40 percent of all cancer deaths. Fred Hutch researchers are leading the way in investigating the determinants of individual decision-making, as well as devising and testing interventions that can help people modify their behavior to reduce the risk of cancer, prevent cancer recurrence after early stage treatment and improve their overall health.

Our behavioral scientists have academic backgrounds in psychology, communication epidemiology and nutrition. They conduct the basic research to understand how behavior leads to the development of cancer, and they design and test behavior change interventions that employ tools such as smartphone apps, text messaging, chatbots and social media.

Understanding How Lifestyle Affects Cancer Risk

Fred Hutch behavioral scientists are investigating the impact of diet, physical activity and weight on cancer in the general population and among high-risk groups. The results have had major implications for cancer prevention. For example, the Health, Eating, Activity and Lifestyle (HEAL) Study investigates the relationship between diet, physical activity, weight patterns, hormonal factors, breast density, quality of life and cancer prognosis among breast cancer survivors. The Physical Activity for Total Health (PATH) Study examines how moderate exercise may lower breast cancer risk.

“The Secret to Self Control,” TEDx Talk by Dr. Jonathan Bricker

Developing and Testing Technology-Based Interventions

Dr. Jonathan Bricker and his colleagues at Fred Hutch are developing and testing technology-based behavior change interventions for tobacco cessation and weight loss. Our Health Behavioral Innovations in Technology (HABIT) group employs telephone coaching, websites, smartphone apps, text messaging, and chatbots to help people recognize and alter behavior patterns. Smartphone-based research projects include the iCanQuit study, the Quit2Heal study (for cancer patients), and the QuitBot study (for Native Americans). 

Close up of hands breaking a cigarette in half
Our researchers are testing technology-based interventions for smoking cessation. iStock photo

Promoting Behavior Change Among High-Risk Populations

Our researchers work to address disparities in access to behavior change programs and to tailor those programs to high-risk populations. Dr. Heather Greenlee is testing in-person and electronic communications approaches to support Latina breast cancer survivors in improving their diet and engaging in physical activity. Fred Hutch researchers are collaborating with the Navajo Nation to develop and evaluate elementary school curricula focused on gardening and healthy eating. Our Health Communication Research Center, led by Dr. Linda Ko, develops, tests and disseminates evidence-based interventions using a variety of media, including culturally appropriate comic books, podcasts, websites and social media. Our Tobacco-Related Health Disparities Research Group works to address tobacco-related health disparities among groups that include people with mental health conditions and veterans seeking care through the Veterans Health Administration.

Latest Behavioral Research News

Improving apps to help cancer patients quit smoking Fred Hutch cancer prevention researcher awarded $3.5M NCI grant to run randomized trial of smartphone health apps July 10, 2020
How do we get teens to stop vaping? As Washington state considers ban of flavored vapes, Fred Hutch research informs new quit-vaping app for teens and young adults September 30, 2019
Healthy, affordable food hacks for holidays - and beyond Public health studies show access to fruits and vegetables, nourishing recipes, nutritional nudges help us eat better for less November 22, 2016
A nutrition and exercise expert and her science writer daughter discuss the motivation to stay healthy A nutrition and exercise expert and her science writer daughter sit down for a conversation on motivation August 31, 2016