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Nancy Breen, PhD


Health Economist,
Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences,
National Cancer Institute


Nancy Breen, PhD, has served as a health economist in the Applied Research Program at the National Cancer Institute since 1991. To respond to the program's mission of expanding our understanding of how and why cancer care and control activities influence cancer patterns and trends, Dr. Breen's research investigates how race, social class, gender, community factors, and health service diffusion, especially cancer screening, shape cancer outcomes. Dr. Breen received her PhD from the Department of Economics at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York City in 1988. Prior to coming to NCI, she taught economics at Connecticut College and served as a research associate to Dr. Matthew Snipp in the American Statistical Association/National Science Foundation Fellowship Program housed at the US Census Bureau.
Dr. Breen's research in the Health Services and Economics Branch at NCI focuses on how social inequalities are related to health outcomes, with special emphasis on cancer screening, the entry point to health services delivery for screenable cancer sites, where disparities first emerge along the cancer continuum. Because of her interests in screening and data development, Dr. Breen served as NCI project officer to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) from 1999-2009, and she has served as NCI project officer to the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) since 1999. Dr. Breen coordinates the CHIS Cancer Control Supplement Team at NCI, and some of her publications have explored using CHIS in creative ways to examine cancer screening in specific populations and localities. She proctors an NCI Prevention Fellow who is leading a team to develop a scientifically valid and reliable multi-cultural self-reported discrimination module. Dr. Breen collaborates on a multi-disciplinary research team organized to improve understanding of health disparities measures and to disseminate them using the Health Disparities Calculator (HD*Calc). These projects correspond to her broader interest in how economic indicators can be used to improve cancer monitoring, how the range of SES and access indicators are associated with cancer outcomes, and with how public programs can be improved with an evidence base derived from systematic routine monitoring.
Dr. Breen serves as NCI Program Director for various grants. Dr. Breen represents NCI on the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics Subcommittee on Populations. She received NIH Merit Awards in 2001, 2004 and 2008, is author or co-author of many articles published in peer-reviewed journals, and provides peer reviews for a wide range of journals. Dr. Breen is strongly committed to development of surveillance tools that can measure small areas and small populations with a view to monitoring equality, social justice and sustainable economic systems.