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Image: Mattias Pettersson

Sophia Harlid´s research group

Research group Molecular and genetic epidemiology. We study the connection between our environment, our genes and our health.

Throughout our lifetime we encounter exposures that can affect our later risk of developing cancer and other diseases. Sometimes these exposures result in genetic mutations but more often their negative impact seems to be through subtle changes that increases our disease risk over long periods of time.

My research focuses on exposures that occur at so called sensitive time periods, for example, during fetal development, puberty or pregnancy. The overall goal is to find and reduce disease-causing exposures from the environment thereby decreasing the number of people afflicted each year.

The pregnancy exposome and premenopausal breast cancer

Pregnancy is a period of rapid changes to the breast tissue and hazardous exposures occurring during this time period could make women more likely to develop breast cancer. In this project we hope to identify environmental exposures that, if they occur during pregnancy, can increase the risk of developing breast cancer before 50 years of age. If such exposures are found, they can be targeted in order to effectively reduce breast cancer incidence.

Exposures during fetal life can affect the risk of later life diseases – studies in NorthPop

During fetal life we are exposed to many compounds that could potentially affect our later life health. I work within the birth cohort NorthPop to identify common environmental contaminants that affect health. This information will be used to try to understand the mechanisms behind the rising incidence of e.g., asthma and allergies in urban societies today.

The importance of “shifting the curve”

A key concept in public health is about “shifting the curve”. This refers to the fact that even a small change in the exposure levels of harmful substances could have large effects on the number of people afflicted. To identify such exposures and reduce them in society is therefore of uttermost importance so that as many people as possible are able to remain healthy throughout their lives.

Head of research

Sophia Harlid
Research fellow


Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Radiation Sciences

Research area

Cancer, Molecular medicine, Public health and health care science
Genetics, environment and health

What particularly interests Sophia Harlid is how the environment affects us during sensitive time periods.

Latest update: 2022-06-03