Lu Chen, PhD, MPH


“My goal is to help people make informed decisions about which medications are safe, especially for those who are most vulnerable including pregnant women and cancer patients.”

Lu Chen, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute


Lu Chen, PhD, is an assistant investigator with Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) who helps to improve medication safety, cancer survivorship, and maternal and child health. Her methodological research focuses on using administrative and electronic medical record (EMR) data from various sources for epidemiologic research.

Dr. Chen has worked with “big data” from national sources, such as the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)-Medicare Database. She has also used administrative data from Optum (a large national health insurer), as well as rich EMR data from Kaiser Permanente Washington.  By analyzing these real-world data, Dr. Chen studies how common prescription medications affect risk of adverse cancer and pregnancy outcomes. 

With various treatment options available for many common conditions, choosing the right treatment according to an individual’s health priorities and health conditions is not easy. The goal of her research is to provide patients and clinicians better information regarding benefits and risks of different treatments to help them make informed decisions.

Dr. Chen joined KPWHRI in September 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow. During her 2-year fellowship, she contributed to several large studies evaluating treatment and other interventions during pregnancy, such as treatment for pregnant women with hypertension and screening for gestational diabetes. She also collaborated with cancer researchers at KPWHRI to study outcomes and patterns associated with opioid use in breast and colon cancer survivors. 

Before joining KPWHRI, Dr. Chen completed her PhD in epidemiology at the University of Washington, where she worked with cancer epidemiologists to improve understanding of risk factors, survivorship, and health disparities related to breast cancer. Dr. Chen received her master's in public health from the University of Maryland, where she focused on cultural facilitators and barriers in cancer prevention and survivorship for Asian Americans.


  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Medication safety and effectiveness in vulnerable populations including pregnant women and cancer patients; Pharmaco-epidemiology; observational study research methods

  • Cancer

    Breast cancer epidemiology and survivorship, quality of life, effect of commonly used medications on cancer risk and outcomes, health disparities in cancer risk and survival


Recent publications

Badon SE, Dublin S, Nance N, Hedderson MM, Neugebauer R, Easterling T, Cheetham TC, Chen L, Holt VL, Avalos LA. Gestational weight gain and adverse pregnancy outcomes by pre-pregnancy bmi category in women with chronic hypertension: a cohort study. Pregnancy Hypertens. 2021 Mar;23:27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.preghy.2020.10.009. Epub 2020 Oct 24. PubMed

Chen L, Shortreed SM, Easterling T, Cheetham TC, Reynolds K, Avalos LA, Kamineni A, Holt V, Neugebauer R, Akosile M, Nance N, Bider-Canfield Z, Walker RL, Badon SE, Dublin S. Identifying hypertension in pregnancy using electronic medical records: the importance of blood pressure values. Pregnancy Hypertens. 2020 Jan;19:112-118. doi: 10.1016/j.preghy.2020.01.001. Epub 2020 Jan 3. PubMed

Chen L, Chubak J, Yu O, Pocobelli G, Ziebell RA, Aiello Bowles EJ, Fujii MM, Sterrett AT, Boggs JM, Burnett-Hartman AN, Ritzwoller DP, Hubbard RA, Boudreau DM. Changes in use of opioid therapy after colon cancer diagnosis: a population-based study. Cancer Causes Control. 2019 Dec;30(12):1341-1350. doi: 10.1007/s10552-019-01236-5. Epub 2019 Oct 30. PubMed

Boudreau DM, Chen L, Yu O, Bowles EJA, Chubak J. Risk of second breast cancer events with chronic opioid use in breast cancer survivors. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2019 May;28(5):740-753. doi: 10.1002/pds.4779. Epub 2019 Apr 3. PubMed

Bowles EJA, Yu O, Ziebell R, Chen L, Boudreau DM, Ritzwoller DP, Hubbard RA, Boggs JM, Burnett-Hartman AN, Sterrett A, Fujii M, Chubak J. Cardiovascular medication use and risks of colon cancer recurrences and additional cancer events: a cohort study. BMC Cancer. 2019;19(1):270. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-5493-8. PubMed

Pocobelli G, Yu O, Ziebell RA, Aiello Bowles EJ, Fujii MM, Sterrett AT, Boggs JM, Chen L, Boudreau DM, Ritzwoller DP, Hubbard RA, Chubak J. Use of antidepressants after colon cancer diagnosis and risk of recurrence. Psycho-oncology. 2019 Jan 31. doi: 10.1002/pon.5015. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Chen L, Pocobelli G, Yu O, Shortreed SM, Osmundson SS, Fuller S, Wartko PD, McCulloch D, Warwick S, Newton KM, Dublin S. Early pregnancy hemoglobin A1C and pregnancy outcomes: a population-based study. Am J Perinatol. 2018 Nov 30. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1675619. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed


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