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Unhee Lim, PhD

Unhee Lim, PhD
  • Full Member
    Population Sciences in the Pacific Program
    (Cancer Epidemiology)
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Associate Researcher (Associate Professor)
    Cancer Epidemiology Program
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
    University of Hawaii at Manoa


  • PhD, Human Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology, MS, Human Nutrition
    Cornell University
  • Registered Dietitian
    Yale University Hospital
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics
    National Cancer Institute

Research Focus

Dr. Lim's research involves the epidemiologic investigation of nutrition and lifestyle risk factors and related racial/ethnic heterogeneity in cancer etiology. In particular, she is interested in understanding the carcinogenic effects of obesity and body fat distribution and how they vary across racial/ethnic populations.

Obesity is becoming the leading risk factor for cancer, contributing to the development of over a dozen types of cancer. Combined disease burden of obesity or excess body fatness is estimated to be responsible for $150 billion in annual medical care and about 20% of all deaths in the U.S. Additionally, the detrimental metabolic effects of excess body fat is known to be greater when it is stored in the abdominal and intra-abdominal regions than in peripheral and sub-cutaneous regions.

In the Multiethnic Cohort Study, Dr. Lim and colleagues have observed that Asian Americans, along with Latinos and Native Hawaiians, have a greater propensity to accumulate intra-abdominal fat in the viscera, liver, and pancreas, compared to whites or African Americans. In collaboration with multidisciplinary researchers, Dr. Lim is investigating additional disease burden from the high-risk fat depots, biomarkers for understanding their metabolic effects, and lifestyle interventions to improve the adiposity and metabolic profiles.

Selected Publications

  • Citronberg JS, Wilkens LR, Lim U, Hullar MA, White E, Newcomb PA, Le Marchand L, Lampe JW. (2016). Reliability of plasma lipopolysaccharide-binding protein (LBP) from repeated measures in healthy adults. Cancer Causes Control, 27:1163-6. PMC5068910
  • Fu BC, Randolph TW, Lim U, Monroe KR, Cheng I, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Hullar MA, Lampe JW. (2016). Characterization of the gut microbiome in epidemiologic studies: the Multiethnic Cohort experience. Annals Epidemiology, 26(5):373-9. PMC4892953
  • Setiawan VW, Lim U, Lipworth L, Lu SC, Shepherd J, Ernst T, Wilkens LR, Henderson BE, Le Marchand L. (2016). Sex and racial/ethnic differences in the association of obesity with risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 14:309-16. PMC4718778
  • Lim U, Kocarnik JM, Bush WS, Matise TC, Caberto C, Park SL, Carlson CS, Deelman E, Duggan D, Fesinmeyer M, Haiman CA, Henderson BE, Hindorff LA, Kolonel LN, Peters U, Stram DO, Tiirikainen M, Wilkens LR, Wu C, Kooperberg C, Le Marchand L. (2014). Pleiotropy of cancer susceptibility variants on the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma: the PAGE Consortium. PLoS ONE, 9(3):e89791. PMC3943855
  • Lim U, Turner SD, Franke AA, Cooney RV, Wilkens LR, Ernst T, Albright CL, Novotny R, Chang L, Kolonel LN, Murphy SP, Le Marchand L. (2012). Predicting total, abdominal, visceral and hepatic adiposity with circulating biomarkers. PLoS ONE, 7(8):e43502. PMC3422255

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

  • U. Lim, Contact PI / (Multiple PI: Lampe)
    NCI R01 CA204368
    "TMAO, the Gut Microbiome, and Colorectal Cancer Risk in the Multiethnic Cohort"
  • U. Lim, Contact PI / (Multiple PIs: Chang, Hullar)
    NIDDK R21 DK105413
    "Brain-Gut Microbiome-Visceral Adiposity Relationships in Multiethnic Adults"
  • U. Lim, Co-Investigator & Project/Core Leader / (PI: Le Marchand)
    NCI P01 CA168530
    "Obesity, Body Fat Distribution and Cancer Risk in the Multiethnic Cohort"