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Dr. Dennis' main area of research encompasses etiology, behavior and cancer control of skin cancer and prostate cancer. Melanoma and prostate cancer etiology and prevention as related to environmental risk factors have been her main areas of focus for many years. This includes conducting cross-sectional and case-control studies and meta-analyses of risk factors. To conduct original studies, she has used various tools including computer assisted telephone interviews, mailed questionnaires, molecular analyses examining biomarkers (arsenic, vitamin D levels, and sexually transmitted infections), and examination of other biomarkers (melanin) along with detailed data management and analysis skills obtained while studying biostatistics. The meta-analyses she has conducted have occasionally summarized areas with conflicting or controversial results. More often she has conducted meta-analyses to summarize the magnitude of association for interpretation of importance or when considering potential confounders. Thus, she believes meta-analysis can be used as a tool to direct future studies of disease and risk factors.
Dr. Dennis' skin cancer research in the past was focused on melanoma and nevi, precursors or markers of melanoma. Her studies of nevi and melanoma have examined sun sensitivity, sunburn histories, UV exposure, ambient UV, artificial UV use, sun protection, attitudes, knowledge, obesity, pesticide exposures, and arsenic exposure. She has conducted additional studies related to UV behavior, attitudes, and knowledge in college students and adult indoor workers and reliability of such mmeasures. In the past few years, she has been expanding her research into other skin cancers, specifically squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Dr. Dennis co-directs the Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center at the University of Arizona. As part of this Environmental Center, she is working with Dr. Kelly Reynolds to look at the degradation of sunscreen due to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) heat examining samples taken over several time points. A second project suggests that Hispanic populations and white populations almost entirely overlap in skin color (melanin). This suggests that Hispanics are almost as likely to be predisposed to skin cancer as non-Hispanic whites. These projects will help them as they move forward on population based studies of skin cancer in Southern Arizona