Julia Brody, PhD

Julia Brody
Senior Scientist and Executive Director Emeritus

Dr. Julia Brody is a nationally recognized expert on environmental chemicals and breast cancer, as well as a leader in community-based research and public engagement in science. She joined Silent Spring as executive director in 1996, shortly after its founding. She led the organization for 28 years, transforming Silent Spring into a leading authority on environmental chemicals and women's health.

Dr. Brody’s current research focuses on reporting back to people who participate in environmental health studies to inform them of their own chemical exposures. Her team developed the Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface (DERBI)—a web-based tool for making high-quality personalized reports practical in studies of any size, and is currently adapting the tool for smartphone-based reports. She is also studying what Americans know about endocrine disruptors—as part of the emerging field of environmental health literacy.   

Her interest in returning exposure results grew out of Silent Spring Institute’s Household Exposure Study, the first comprehensive assessment of exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds in homes. Results were the first to show that consumer products are a major source of people’s exposure to these chemicals. The study later expanded from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Richmond and Bolinas, California, in a project connecting breast cancer advocacy and environmental justice. The study was the first to discover high exposures to flame retardants in California, ultimately leading to revisions in the state’s flammability standards, which had implications nationwide.

Dr. Brody led a critical review of epidemiologic studies published in the past ten years on breast cancer and environmental pollutants. The study was a follow-up to a landmark state-of-the-science report she led that was published in 2007 in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cancer. The report included a review on animal mammary gland carcinogens, which provided a roadmap for studying these chemicals in humans. Brody was the principal investigator of the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study, including a case-control study of 2,100 women. The study was the first to measure estrogenic chemicals in groundwater and in drinking water.

Brody’s research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the California Breast Cancer Research Program, and the National Science Foundation. She is the co-PI of an NIH T32 training grant in collaboration with Northeastern University. Her research collaborators also include investigators at Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley, and elsewhere.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Dr. Brody’s research with an Environmental Merit Award in 2000. In 2002, she presented one of the Distinguished Lectures at the National Cancer Institute and spoke at the 2009 President’s Cancer Panel where she highlighted the need to integrate biological evidence with human studies to prevent cancers. She has served on the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council and is currently an advisor to the California Breast Cancer Research Program and breast cancer activist organizations.

Dr. Brody is a Research Associate in Epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health. She earned her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin and her AB at Harvard University.


Publications & Presentations

  • Brody, J.G., P.M. Cirillo, K.E. Boronow, L. Havas, M. Plumb, H.P. Susmann, K.Z. Gajos, and B.A. Cohn. 2021. Outcomes from Returning Individual versus Only Study-Wide Biomonitoring Results in an Environmental Exposure Study Using the Digital Exposure Report-Back Interface (DERBI). Environmental Health Perspectives. doi.org/10.1289/EHP9072

  • Kripke M., J.G. Brody, E. Hawk, A.B. Hernandez, P.J. Hoppin, M.M. Jacobs, R.A. Rudel, T.R. Rebbeck. 2020. Rethinking Environmental Carcinogenesis. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 29(10): 1870-1875. doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-0541

  • Udesky, J.O., K.E. Boronow, P. Brown, L.J. Perovich, J.G. Brody. 2020. Perceived Risks, Benefits, and Interest in Participating in Environmental Health Studies That Share Personal Exposure Data: A U.S. Survey of Prospective ParticipantsJournal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. doi.org/10.1177/1556264620903595

  • Boronow, K.E., L.J. Perovich, L. Sweeney, J.S. Yoo, R.A. Rudel, P. Brown, J.G. Brody. 2020. Privacy Risks of Sharing Data from Environmental Health Studies, Environmental Health Perspectives. 128(1):17008. doi.org/10.1289/EHP4817

  • Terry, M.B., K.B. Michels, J.G. Brody, C. Byrne, S. Chen, D.J. Jerry, K.M.C. Malecki, M.B. Martin, R.L. Miller, S.L. Neuhausen, K. Silk, A. Trentham-Dietz, & on behalf of Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP). 2019. Environmental exposures during windows of susceptibility for breast cancer: a framework for prevention research. Breast Cancer Research. doi.org/10.1186/s13058-019-1168-2

  • Rodgers, K.M., J.O. Udesky, R.A. Rudel, J.G. Brody. 2018. Environmental chemicals and breast cancer: An updated review of epidemiological literature informed by biological mechanisms. Environmental Research. 160:152-182. doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.045