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Mary C. Playdon

Mary C. Playdon, PhD, MPH

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Adjunct - Population Health Sciences

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • Natural History of a Disease
  • Molecular Systematics

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.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship National Cancer Institute
Postdoctoral Fellow
Yale School of Public Health
Graduate Training Yale School of Public Health
Queensland University of Technology
Undergraduate Queensland University of Technology

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Thompson HJ, Levitt JO, McGinley JN, Chandler P, Guenther PM, Huybrechts I, Playdon MC (2021). Measuring Dietary Botanical Diversity as a Proxy for Phytochemical Exposure. Nutrients, 13(4). (Read full article)
  2. Xiao Q, Bauer C, Layne T, Playdon M (2021). The association between overnight fasting and body mass index in older adults: the interaction between duration and timing. Int J Obes (Lond), 45(3), 555-564. (Read full article)
  3. Moore SC, Mazzilli KM, Sampson JN, Matthews CE, Carter BD, Playdon MC, Wang Y, Stevens VL (2021). A Metabolomics Analysis of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk in the Cancer Prevention Study II. Metabolites, 11(2). (Read full article)
  4. Evans AM, ODonovan C, Playdon M, Beecher C, Beger RD, Bowden JA, Broadhurst D, Clish CB, Dasari S, Dunn WB, Griffin JL, Hartung T, Hsu PC, Huan T, Jans J, Jones CM, Kachman M, Kleensang A, Lewis MR, Monge ME, Mosley JD, Taylor E, Tayyari F, Theodoridis G, Torta F, Ubhi BK, Vuckovic D (2020). Dissemination and analysis of the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) practices of LC–MS based untargeted metabolomics practitioners. Int J Obes (Lond), 16(10), 113. (Read full article)
  5. Kiblawi R, Holowatyj AN, Gigic B, Brezina S, Geijsen AJMR, Ose J, Lin T, Hardikar S, Himbert C, Warby CA, Bhm J, Bours MJL, Van Duijnhoven FJB, Gumpenberger T, Kok DE, Koole JL, Van Roekel EH, Schrotz-King P, Ulvik A, Gsur A, Habermann N, Weijenberg MP, Ueland PM, Schneider M, Ulrich A, Ulrich CM, Playdon M (2020). One-carbon metabolites, B vitamins and associations with systemic inflammation and angiogenesis biomarkers among colorectal cancer patients: Results from the ColoCare Study. Br J Nutr, 123(10), 1187-1200. (Read full article)
  6. Hardikar S, Albrechtsen RD, Achaintre D, Lin T, Pauleck S, Playdon M, Holowatyj AN, Gigic B, Schrotz-King P, Boehm J, Habermann N, Brezina S, Gsur A, van Roekel EH, Weijenberg MP, Keski-Rahkonen P, Scalbert A, Ose J, Ulrich CM (2020). Impact of pre-blood collection factors on plasma metabolomic profiles. Br J Nutr, 10(5). (Read full article)
  7. Poss AM, Maschek JA, Cox JE, Hauner BJ, Hopkins PN, Hunt SC, Holland WL, Summers SA, Playdon MC (2019). Machine learning reveals serum sphingolipids as cholesterol-independent biomarkers of coronary artery disease. J Clin Invest, 130(3), 1363-1376. (Read full article)
  8. Kiblawi R Holowatyj AN Gigic B Brezina S Geijsen AJMR Ose J Lin T Hardikar S Himbert C Warby CA Bhm J Bours MJL van Duijnhoven FJB Gumpenberger T Kok DE Koole JL van Roekel EH Schrotz-King P Ulvik A Gsur A Habermann N Weijenberg MP U (02/01/2020). One-carbon metabolites, B-vitamins and associations with systemic inflammation and angiogenesis biomarkers among colorectal cancer patients: results from the ColoCare Study. Br J Nutr, 123(10), 1-32. (Read full article)
  9. 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. Br J Nutr, 156(1), 185-193. (Read full article)
  10. 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 B Hu F Karp RW Klurfeld DM Laughlin MR Little AR Lynch CJ Moore SC Nicas (10/01/2019). Perspective: Dietary Biomarkers of Intake and Exposure—Exploration with Omics Approaches. (Read full article)
  11. Playdon MC, Joshi AD, Tabung FK, Cheng S, Henglin M, Kim A, Lin T, van Roekel EH, Huang J, Krumsiek J, Wang Y, Math E, Temprosa M, Moore S, Chawes B, Eliassen AH, Gsur A, Gunter MJ, Harada S, Langenberg C, Oresic M, Perng W, Seow WJ, Zeleznik OA (2019). Metabolomics Analytics Workflow for Epidemiological Research: Perspectives from the Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS). Metabolites, 9(7). (Read full article)
  12. Murphy RA, Moore S, Playdon M, Kritchevsky S, Newman AB, Satterfield S, Ayonayon H, Clish C, Gerszten R, Harris TB (2019). Metabolites associated with risk of developing mobility disability in the health, aging and body composition study. Br J Nutr, 74(1), 73-80. (Read full article)
  13. 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, ODonovan 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. Br J Nutr, 15(1). (Read full article)


  1. Crowder SL, Playdon MC, Gudenkauf LM, Ose J, Gigic B, Greathouse L, Peoples AR, Sleight AG, Jim HSL, Figueiredo JC (2022). A Molecular Approach to Understanding the Role of Diet in Cancer-Related Fatigue: Challenges and Future Opportunities. [Review]. Nutrients, 14(7). (Read full article)
  2. Veettil SK, Wong TY, Loo YS, Playdon MC, Lai NM, Giovannucci EL, Chaiyakunapruk N (2021). Role of Diet in Colorectal Cancer Incidence: Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses of Prospective Observational Studies. [Review]. JAMA Netw Open, 4(2), e2037341. (Read full article)
  3. 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, B Hu F, Karp RW, Klurfeld DM, Laughlin MR, Little AR, Lynch CJ, Moore SC, Nicastro HL, OBrien DM, Ordovs JM, Osganian SK, Playdon M, Prentice R, Raftery D, Reisdorph N, Roche HM, Ross SA, Sang S, Scalbert A, Srinivas PR, Zeisel SH (2020). Perspective: Dietary Biomarkers of Intake and Exposure - Exploration with Omics Approaches. [Review]. Br J Nutr, 11(2), 200-215. (Read full article)
  4. McGee EE, Kiblawi R, Playdon MC, Eliassen AH (2019). Nutritional Metabolomics in Cancer Epidemiology: Current Trends, Challenges, and Future Directions. [Review]. Curr Nutr Rep, 8(3), 187-201. (Read full article)
  5. Playdon M, Thomas G, Sanft T, Harrigan M, Ligibel J, Irwin M (2013). Weight loss intervention for breast cancer survivors: A systematic review. [Review]. Br J Nutr, 5(3), 222-246. (Read full article)


  1. Playdon MC, Bracken MB, Sanft TB, Ligibel JA, Harrigan M, Irwin ML (2016). Response [Letter to the editor]. Br J Nutr, 108(4). (Read full article)


  1. Shu X, Chen Z, Long J, Guo X, Yang Y, Qu C, Ahn YO, Cai Q, Casey G, Gruber SB, Huyghe JR, Jee SH, Jenkins MA, Jia WH, Jung KJ, Kamatani Y, Kim DH, Kim J, Kweon SS, Le Marchand L, Matsuda K, Matsuo K, Newcomb PA, Oh JH, Ose J, Oze I, Pai RK, Pan ZZ, Pharoah PDP, Playdon MC, Ren ZF, Schoen RE, Shin A, Shin MH, Shu XO, Sun X, Tangen CM, Tanikawa C, Ulrich CM, van Duijnhoven FJB, Van Guelpen B, Wolk A, Woods MO, Wu AH, Peters U, Zheng W (2021). Large-scale Integrated Analysis of Genetics and Metabolomic Data Reveals Potential Links Between Lipids and Colorectal Cancer Risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev (31(6), pp. 1216-1226). United States. (Read full article)
  2. Xiao Q, Matthews CE, Playdon M, Bauer C (2021). The association between rest-activity rhythms and glycemic markers: the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2014. Sleep (45(2)). United States. (Read full article)
  3. Coletta AM, Playdon MC, Baron KG, Wei M, Kelley K, Vaklavas C, Beck A, Buys SS, Chipman J, Ulrich CM, Walker D, White S, Oza S, Zingg RW, Hansen PA (2021). The association between time-of-day of habitual exercise training and changes in relevant cancer health outcomes among cancer survivors. PLoS One (16(10), pp. e0258135). United States. (Read full article)
  4. Nicholson RJ, Poss AM, Maschek JA, Cox JE, Hopkins PN, Hunt SC, Playdon MC, Holland WL, Summers SA (2020). Characterizing a Common CERS2 Polymorphism in a Mouse Model of Metabolic Disease and in Subjects from the Utah CAD Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab (106(8), pp. e3098-e3109). United States. (Read full article)
  5. Qi J, Spinelli JJ, Dummer TJB, Bhatti P, Playdon MC, Levitt JO, Hauner B, Moore SC, Murphy RA (2021). Metabolomics and cancer preventive behaviors in the BC Generations Project. Sci Rep (11(1), p. 12094). England. (Read full article)
  6. Mazzilli KM, McClain KM, Lipworth L, Playdon MC, Sampson JN, Clish CB, Gerszten RE, Freedman ND, Moore SC (2019). Identification of 102 Correlations between Serum Metabolites and Habitual Diet in a Metabolomics Study of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Trial. J Nutr (150(4), pp. 694-703). United States. (Read full article)
  7. McGee EE, Kiblawi R, Playdon MC, Eliassen AH (2019). Correction to: Nutritional Metabolomics in Cancer Epidemiology: Current Trends, Challenges, and Future Directions. Curr Nutr Rep (8(3), p. 202). United States. (Read full article)
  8. 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, Kivimki M, Kristal BS, Langenberg C, Lasky-Su J, Lawlor DA, Lotta LA, Mangino M, Le Marchand L, Math 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 (2018). The Consortium of Metabolomics Studies (COMETS): Metabolomics in 47 Prospective Cohort Studies. Am J Epidemiol (188(6), pp. 991-1012). United States. (Read full article)