Unhee Lim, PhD

Unhee Lim, PhD, MS, RD

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Full Member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center

Academic Appointment(s):
Professor (Researcher), Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
Graduate Faculty, Human Nutrition, College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Degree(s):
PhD, Human Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology, Cornell University
MS, Human Nutrition, Cornell University
Registered Dietitian, Yale University Hospital
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, National Cancer Institute

Research Focus

Dr. Lim's research focuses on the role lifestyle factors play in the development and the racial and ethnic disparities of common sporadic cancers and dementia.  She is particularly interested in using different types of biomarkers (blood biochemistry, DNA methylation, the gut microbiome, imaging) in tandem with questionnaires to assess exposures and risks.

Some of her recent research questions included the following:

  1. How the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementia varies across racial and ethnic populations and how the disparity is explained by the distribution of known genetic and non-genetic risk factors?
  2. How genome-wide methylation patterns in pre-disease blood DNA are associated with disease occurrence and can serve as risk predictors?
  3. How well the prediction scores for visceral fat and liver fat perform to explain associated metabolic disease risks?

Dr. Lim accepts undergraduate students for research training mostly through the UH Cancer Center's CREATE summer internship program.  Interested students should inquire at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about the CREATE program and application process.

Selected Publications

Park SY, Setiawan VW, Crimmins EM, White LR, Wu AH, Cheng I, Darst BF, Haiman CA, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Lim U. (2024). Racial and ethnic differences in the population attributable fractions of Alzheimer disease and related dementias. Neurology 2024;102(3);e208116. PMID: 38232335.

Lim U, Wang S, Park SY, Bogumil D, Wu AH, Cheng I, Haiman CA, Le Marchand L, Wilkens LR, White L, Setiawan VW. (2022). Risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia by sex and race/ethnicity: The Multiethnic Cohort Study. Alzheimers Dement 2022. PMID: 34882963. PMC9177893.

Song MA, Seffernick AE, Archer KJ, Mori KM, Park SY, Chang L, Ernst T, Tiirikainen M, Peplowska K, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Lim U. (2021). Race/ethnicity-associated blood DNA methylation differences between Japanese and European American women: an exploratory study. Clin Epigenetics 2021. PMID: 34635168. PMC8507376.

Le Marchand L, Wilkens LR, Castelfranco AM, Monroe KR, Kristal BS, Cheng I, Maskarinec G, Hullar MA, Lampe JW, Shepherd J, Franke AA, Ernst T, Lim U. (2020). Circulating biomarker score for visceral fat and risks of incident colorectal and postmenopausal breast cancer: The Multiethnic Cohort Adiposity Phenotype Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2020. PMID: 32132150. PMC7196505.

Lim U, Monroe KR, Buchthal S, Fan B, Cheng I, Kristal BS, Lampe JW, Hullar MA, Franke AA, Stram DO, Wilkens LR, Shepherd J, Ernst T, Le Marchand L. (2019). Propensity for intra-abdominal and hepatic adiposity varies among ethnic groups. Gastroenterology 2019. PMID: 30445012. PMC6409195.

Publication list via MyNCBI

Active Grants

U. Lim, Co-Investigator; L. Le Marchand, PI
National Cancer Institute
R01 CA258179
“Effects of intermittent energy restriction on intra-abdominal fat and the gut microbiome: a randomized trial”
09/2021 – 08/2026

U. Lim, Co-Investigator; S. Y. Park, PI
National Institute on Aging
R03 AG081824
“Prospective association of diet and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias among five racial and ethnic populations”
09/2023 – 08/2025

U. Lim, PI; J. Lampe and M. Hullar, MPI
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities
R01 MD018265
“Longitudinal study of early NAFLD progression and the gut microbiome in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Whites”
09/2022 – 06/2027

U. Lim, Co-Investigator; S. Y. Park, PI
Alzheimer’s Association
Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant – New to the Field Award
“Blood pTau validation of Alzheimer disease in high-risk populations”
08/2024 – 07/2026