Mary C Playdon, PhD, MPH portrait
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Population Health Sciences
  • Assistant Professor, Nutrition & Integrative Physiology

Research Statement

Dr. Playdon's research focuses on the role of modifiable lifestyle factors like diet and obesity in the development of cancer and survival after cancer diagnosis. With her collaborators, she has done cutting-edge research on developing dietary biomarkers using metabolomics to improve dietary measurement, and understand the mechanisms underlying dietary relationships with disease. Her research program at the University of Utah is further characterizing promising dietary biomarkers, exploring metabolic phenotype in the development of female and other diet-related cancers like colorectal cancer, and applying nutritional metabolomics to studies of cancer survivorship, including cohort studies and dietary interventions.

Cancer patients, and the public, have a strong interest in what dietary factors might prevent cancer or improve survival after cancer diagnosis. Many questions remain, since dietary measurement is prone to errors that can make it difficult to detect diet-cancer signals. Dr. Playdon's recent work validating dietary biomarkers has uncovered several markers with potential to be considered 'gold standard' that could be used to improve the measurement of diet. She also uncovered the trove of information available by measuring metabolites from a small blood sample: what a person ate, how that food might have been processed and prepared, and how their metabolism has responded to diet. Since many large observational studies have thousands or tens of thousands of patient samples in storage, nutritional metabolomics could be conducted with immediate effect and applied to studies of diseases like cancer on a very large-scale. This has the potential to dramatically shift the landscape of nutritional research.

Many cancer survivors, particularly survivors of obesity-related cancers, are at high risk of developing comorbidities after cancer diagnosis, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Playdon is developing studies to explore the etiology of metabolic abnormalities and comorbidities among cancer patients using molecular epidemiology approaches. Furthermore, she is studying strategies to improve metabolic health among cancer patients including modifying dietary pattern, meal timing, and lifestyle interventions that include combinations of diet and physical activity. 

Having counseled hundreds of women that are living with a diagnosis of cancer on diet and lifestyle change as a research dietitian continues to inspire Dr. Playdon's passion for making discoveries related to the role of nutrition in both preventing cancer, and prolonging life and improving the quality of life of cancer survivors.

Research Keywords

  • ovarian cancer
  • obesity
  • nutrition
  • epidemiology
  • endometrial cancer
  • dietary pattern
  • diet
  • colorectal cancer
  • breast cancer
  • Metabolomics
  • Metabolism
  • Metabolic Health
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer


  • I Know What You Ate Last Summer. University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/22/2019.
  • The Next Big Thing in Nutrition for Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, Huntsman Cancer Institute Women’s Disease Oriented Team (WDOT) . Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/05/2019.
  • Nutritional metabolomics: Opportunities for disease prevention and control. Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center Symposium, University of Utah, Salt Lake City. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/02/2018.
  • Objective biomarkers of usual diet: a metabolomics analysis of weighed food intake. 14th International Conference of the Metabolomics Society, Seattle, WA . Presentation, Presented, 06/25/2018.
  • Metabolomic profiles of food intake and dietary patterns. National Institutes of Health Workshop on Omics Approaches, Bethesda, MD . Presentation, Presented, 04/19/2018.
  • The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program NCI Summer Curriculum in Molecular Cancer Prevention. Course Title: “Metabolomics: Applications to epidemiology and cancer etiology studies.”. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/24/2017.
  • Dietary biomarkers in the age of metabolomics, NIH Nutrition Research Coordinating Committee (NRCC), Rockville, MD. Presentation, Presented, 03/13/2017.
  • Application of metabolomics to dietary patterns research, Dietary Patterns Methods Project, US National Interest Group. Presentation, Presented, 01/24/2017.
  • Nutritional metabolomics and application to breast cancer etiology, Trans-NIH Metabolomics Interest Group Lecture Series, Bethesda, MD. Presentation, Presented, 12/06/2016.
  • Identifying biomarkers of dietary patterns using metabolomics, COnsortium of METabolomics Studies Annual Meeting, Rockville, MD. Presentation, Presented, 11/16/2016.
  • Nutritional metabolomics and breast cancer risk in a prospective study, Epidemiology Congress of the Americas 2016, Miami, FL. Presentation, Presented, 06/21/2016.
  • Preferred health information needs and sources of long-term cancer survivors in the ACS Study of Cancer Survivors-I, Yale Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program, New Haven, CT. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/01/2014.
  • Unique Weight Management Concerns of Breast Cancer Survivors: The Lifestyle Exercise and Nutrition Study, Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo, Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Houston TX . Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/21/2013.

Research Groups

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Feasibility and Acceptability of Time Restricted Feeding among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Women at Risk for Developing Endometrial Cancer. PI: MARY PLAYDON. Cancer Control and Population Sciences Pilot Grant, Huntsman Cancer Institute ($30K) AND University of Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences Seed Grant (DSS #: 10056645; $30K), 04/01/2020 - 03/31/2021. Total project budget to date: $60,000.00
  • Exploring the Etiology of Diabetes after Endometrial Cancer Diagnosis using ‘Omics Technology. PI: MARY PLAYDON. Andrew S. Weyrich, Vice President for Research Research Incentive Seed Grant Program, 03/01/2020 - 02/28/2021. Total project budget to date: $22,500.00
  • Feasibility and Acceptability of Time Restricted Feeding among Endometrial Cancer Patients. PI: MARY PLAYDON. FY20 Women’s Cancers Center Research Seed Grant, Huntsman Cancer Institute, 12/23/2019 - 12/23/2020. Total project budget to date: $35,000.00
  • Inflammatory lipid mediators and aromatase inhibitor-associated arthralgias in breast cancer. PI: Lynn Henry. V Foundation, 02/01/2019 - 02/01/2021. Total project budget to date: $600,000.00
  • Blood metabolite profiles and risk of developing endometrial cancer. PI: Mary C Playdon. National Cancer Institute, 05/01/2018 - 04/30/2021. Total project budget to date: $747,000.00
  • Metabolic phenotype trajectory of ovarian cancer patients over the treatment course: a pilot study. PI: Jennifer Doherty. Co-PI(s): Mary C Playdon. Huntsman Cancer Institute Cancer Control and Population Sciences Pilot Grant, 12/01/2017 - 06/01/2019. Total project budget to date: $28,195.00

Research/Scholarship Projects

  • COMETS Analytics Working Group. PI: Mary C Playdon. Co-PI(s): Steven Moore, Jiaqi Huang, Andriy Derkach, Tengda Lin, Nada Assi, Oana Zeleznik, Susan Cheng, Mir Henglin, Joseph Rothwell, Florence Guida, Jan Krumsiek. 01/13/2017 - present.


  • English, fluent.


  • Yu B, Zanetti KA, Temprosa M, Albanes D, Appel N, Barrera CB, Ben-Shlomo Y, Boerwinkle E, Casas JP, Clish C, Dale C, Dehghan A, Derkach A, Eliassen AH, Elliott P, Fahy E, Gieger C, Gunter MJ, Harada S, Harris T, Herr DR, Herrington D, Hirschhorn JN, Hoover E, Hsing AW, Johansson M, Kelly RS, Khoo CM, Kivimäki M, Kristal BS, Langenberg C, Lasky-Su J, Lawlor DA, Lotta LA, Mangino M, Le Marchand L, Mathé E, Matthews CE, Menni C, Mucci LA, Murphy R, Oresic M, Orwoll E, Ose J, Pereira AC, Playdon MC, Poston L, Price J, Qi Q, Rexrode K, Risch A, Sampson J, Seow WJ, Sesso HD, Shah SH, Shu XO, Smith GCS, Sovio U, Stevens VL, Stolzenberg-Solomon R, Takebayashi T, Tillin T, Travis R, Tzoulaki I, Ulrich CM, Vasan RS, Verma M, Wang Y, Wareham NJ, Wong A, Younes N, Zhao H, Zheng W & Moore SC (2020). The Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS): Metabolomics in 47 Prospective Cohort Studies. American journal of epidemiology. Vol. 188, 991-1012. Published, 02/01/2020.
  • Kim S, Park J, Chen Y, Rowe K, Snyder J, Fraser A, Smith K, Deshmukh VG, Newman M, Herget K, Porucznik CA, Ose D, Playdon M, Gaffney D & Hashibe M (2020). Long-term diabetes risk among endometrial cancer survivors in a population-based cohort study. Gynecologic oncology. Vol. 156, 185-193. Published, 02/01/2020.
  • McGee EE & Kiblawi R, Playdon MC, Eliassen AH (2019). Nutritional Metabolomics in Cancer Epidemiology: Current Trends, Challenges, and Future Directions. Curr Nutr Rep. Published, 09/2019.
  • Maruvada,P, Lampe, JW, Wishart, DS, Barupal, D, Chester, DN, Dodd, D, Djoumbou-Feunang, Y, Dorrestein, PC, Dragsted, LO, Draper, J, Duffy, LC, Dwyer, JT, Emenaker, NJ, Fiehn, O, Gerszten, RE, Hu, FB, Karp, RW, Klurfeld, DM, Laughlin, MR, Little, AR, Lynch, CJ, Moore, & Nicastro, HL, O’Brien, DM, Ordovás, JM, Osganian,SK, Playdon, M, Prentice, R, Raftery, D, Reisdorph,2 N, Roche, HM, Ross, SA, Sang, S, Scalbert, A, Srinivas, PR, and Zeisel, SH. (2019). Dietary Biomarkers of Intake and Exposure—Exploration with Omics Approaches. Advances in Nutrition. Published, 08/06/2019.
  • Playdon, M & Joshi A, Tabung F, Cheng S, Henglin M, Kim A, Lin T, van Roekel EH, Huang J, Krumsiek J, Mathe E, Temprosa M, Moore SC, Zeleznik, OA (2019). Metabolomics Analytics Workflow for Epidemiological Research: Perspectives from the Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS). Metabolites. Published, 07/17/2019.
  • Yu B, Temprosa E, Appel N, Boerwinkle E, Derkach A, Fahy E, Gunter MJ, Hoover E, Lotta L, Mathé E, Murphy RA, Playdon MC, Risch A, Sampson J, Travis R, Wang Y, Younes N, Albanes DA, Barrera CB, Casas JP, Castle A, Chow WH, Clish C, Eliassen H, Gieger C, , Harada S, Harris T, Herrington D, Hsing A, Johannson M, Kristal B, Langenberg C, Lasky-Su J, LeMarchand L, Mangino M, Matthews CE, Menni C, Oresic M, Orwoll E, Pereira A, Rexrode K, Shah S, Shu XO, Srinivas P, Stevens V, Stolzenberg-Solomon R, & Takebayashi T, Ulrich N, Zhao H, Moore SC (2019). The Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS): Metabolomics in 47 Prospective Cohort Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology. Published, 06/01/2019.
  • Beger RD, Beger RD, Dunn WB, Bandukwala A, Bethan B, Broadhurst D, Clish CB, Dasari S, Derr L, Evans A, Fischer S, Flynn T, Hartung T, Herrington D, Higashi R, Hsu PC, Jones C, Kachman M, Karuso H, Kruppa G, Lippa K, Maruvada P, Mosley J, Ntai I, O'Donovan C, & Playdon M, Raftery D, Shaughnessy D, Souza A, Spaeder T, Spalholz B, Tayyari F, Ubhi B, Verma M, Walk T, Wilson I, Witkin K, Bearden DW, Zanetti KA (2019). Towards quality assurance and quality control in untargeted metabolomics studies. Metabolomics. Vol. 15. Published, 01/2019.
  • Bergman BC, Perreault L, Strauss A, Bacon S, Kerege A, Harrison K, Brozinick JT, Hunerdosse DM, Playdon MC, Holmes W, Bui HH, Sanders P, Siddall P, Wei T, Thomas MK, Kuo MS & Eckel RH (2018). Intramuscular triglyceride synthesis: importance in muscle lipid partitioning in humans. American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism. Vol. 314, E152-E164. Published, 06/01/2018.
  • Moore SC, Playdon MC, Sampson JN, Hoover RN, Trabert B, Matthews CE & Ziegler RG (2018). A Metabolomics Analysis of Body Mass Index and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Vol. 110, 588-597. Published, 06/01/2018.
  • Playdon MC, Coburn SB, Moore SC, Brinton LA, Wentzensen N, Anderson G, Wallace R, Falk RT, Pfeiffer R, Xu X & Trabert B (2018). Alcohol and oestrogen metabolites in postmenopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. British journal of cancer. Vol. 118, 448-457. Published, 03/01/2018.
  • Murphy RA, Moore SC, Playdon M, Meirelles O, Newman AB, Milijkovic I, Kritchevsky SB, Schwartz A, Goodpaster BH, Sampson J, Cawthon P, Simonsick EM, Gerszten RE, Clish CB, Harris TB & (2017). Metabolites Associated With Lean Mass and Adiposity in Older Black Men. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. Vol. 72, 1352-1359. Published, 10/01/2017.
  • Derkach A, Sampson J, Joseph J, Playdon MC & Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ (2017). Effects of dietary sodium on metabolites: the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-Sodium Feeding Study. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Vol. 106, 1131-1141. Published, 10/01/2017.
  • Playdon MC, Ziegler RG, Sampson JN, Stolzenberg-Solomon R, Thompson HJ, Irwin ML, Mayne ST, Hoover RN & Moore SC (2017). Nutritional metabolomics and breast cancer risk in a prospective study. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Vol. 106, 637-649. Published, 08/01/2017.
  • Playdon MC, Nagle CM, Ibiebele TI, Ferrucci LM, Protani MM, Carter J, Hyde SE, Neesham D, Nicklin JL, Mayne ST & Webb PM (2017). Pre-diagnosis diet and survival after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. British journal of cancer. Vol. 116, 1627-1637. Published, 08/01/2017.
  • Playdon MC, Moore SC, Derkach A, Reedy J, Subar AF, Sampson JN, Albanes D, Gu F, Kontto J, Lassale C, Liao LM, Männistö S, Mondul AM, Weinstein SJ, Irwin ML, Mayne ST & Stolzenberg-Solomon R (2017). Identifying biomarkers of dietary patterns by using metabolomics. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Vol. 105, 450-465. Published, 06/01/2017.
  • Playdon MC, Sampson JN, Cross AJ, Sinha R, Guertin KA, Moy KA, Rothman N, Irwin ML, Mayne ST, Stolzenberg-Solomon R & Moore SC (2017). Comparing metabolite profiles of habitual diet in serum and urine. (pp. 776-89). Vol. 104. The American journal of clinical nutrition. Published, 06/01/2017.
  • Mayne ST, Playdon MC & Rock CL (2017). Diet, nutrition, and cancer: past, present and future. Nature reviews. Clinical oncology. Vol. 13, 504-15. Published, 05/01/2017.
  • Playdon M, Ferrucci LM, McCorkle R, Stein KD, Cannady R, Sanft T & Cartmel B (2017). Health information needs and preferences in relation to survivorship care plans of long-term cancer survivors in the American Cancer Society's Study of Cancer Survivors-I. Journal of cancer survivorship : research and practice. Vol. 10, 674-85. Published, 04/01/2017.
  • Playdon M, Thomas G, Sanft T, Harrigan M, Ligibel J & Irwin M (2017). Weight Loss Intervention for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review. Current breast cancer reports. Vol. 5, 222-246. Published, 02/01/2017.
  • Harrigan M, Cartmel B, Loftfield E, Sanft T, Chagpar AB, Zhou Y, Playdon M, Li F & Irwin ML (2016). Randomized Trial Comparing Telephone Versus In-Person Weight Loss Counseling on Body Composition and Circulating Biomarkers in Women Treated for Breast Cancer: The Lifestyle, Exercise, and Nutrition (LEAN) Study. (pp. 669-76). Vol. 34. Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Published, 06/01/2016.
  • Playdon MC, Matthews SB & Thompson HJ (2013). Weight change patterns and breast cancer risk: a brief review and analysis. Critical reviews in eukaryotic gene expression. Vol. 23, 159-69. Published, 11/01/2013.
  • Bergman BC, Perreault L, Hunerdosse D, Kerege A, Playdon M, Samek AM & Eckel RH (2013). Novel and reversible mechanisms of smoking-induced insulin resistance in humans. Diabetes. Vol. 61, 3156-66. Published, 01/01/2013.
  • Bergman BC, Hunerdosse DM, Kerege A, Playdon MC & Perreault L (2012). Localisation and composition of skeletal muscle diacylglycerol predicts insulin resistance in humans. Diabetologia. Vol. 55, 1140-50. Published, 08/01/2012.
  • Perreault L, Bergman BC, Hunerdosse DM, Playdon MC & Eckel RH (2011). Inflexibility in intramuscular triglyceride fractional synthesis distinguishes prediabetes from obesity in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.). Vol. 18, 1524-31. Published, 02/01/2011.
  • Bergman BC, Perreault L, Hunerdosse DM, Koehler MC, Samek AM & Eckel RH (2010). Increased intramuscular lipid synthesis and low saturation relate to insulin sensitivity in endurance-trained athletes. Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985). Vol. 108, 1134-41. Published, 08/01/2010.
  • Bergman BC, Perreault L, Hunerdosse DM, Koehler MC, Samek AM & Eckel RH (2009). Intramuscular lipid metabolism in the insulin resistance of smoking. Diabetes. Vol. 58, 2220-7. Published, 10/01/2009.