David Leon BA (Hons) PhD

Professor of Epidemiology



David Leon obtained his BA from University in Cambridge (1971) and his PhD from the University of London (1991). His doctoral research, conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), was a study of mortality among printing workers based on a cohort that he established. Having initially worked for the London University Institute of Urology (1977-80) on occupational bladder cancer, he then moved to City University as a Cancer Research Campaign Research Fellow where he worked on socio-economic and environmental determinants of cancer incidence in the ONS Longitudinal Study (1980-85). He came to LSHTM as a Lecturer in Epidemiology at LSHTM in 1985, and was made Professor of Epidemiology in 2000. In 2013 he was additionally appointed as a Professor in the Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway.

He is currently a visiting Professor at the University of Bristol (2000-) and at the University of Stockholm (2005-) and an editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology (2001-). He has sat on and chaired numerous advisory and funding panels in the UK and elsewhere, and has been particularly involved with the work of UK Medical Research Council.





He currently teaches on a wide range of MSc courses at LSHTM including the introductory course on epidemiology. He also co-organise the Epidemiology of Non-communicable Diseases study unit in Term 2. This study unit aims to convey the growing importance of a wide range of non-communicable diseases throughout the world including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health and injuries and violence.


In the 1990s he set up and led a series of widely cited studies on the fetal origins of adult disease funded by the UK MRC and the Swedish Research Council, working with researchers in Uppsala. In recognition of this work he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Uppsala (2001). His most recent work in this area has been concerned with ethnic differences in body composition in infancy. 

His main research focus concerns the determinants of health in the former communist countries of Europe. He was co-founder of the European Centre for the Health of Societies in Transition (ECOHOST) at LSHTM with Martin McKee. Much of his work has been concerned with the Russian mortality crisis, which has produced some of the most important and highly cited papers on this topic. He has led two Wellcome Trust-funded projects in Russia (2002-2010) that established for the first time a key role for hazardous drinking as a major explanation for high working age male mortality there.  He is now leading a major international project aimed at understanding why Russia has one of the highest mortality rates from circulatory disease in the world. This is funded by a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award and various sources in Norway. The project is underway and will run for 5 years until 2019.

Research areas

  • Alcohol
  • Behaviour change
  • Child health
  • Global Health
  • International comparisons
  • Public health
  • Substance abuse


  • Epidemiology
  • Life-course epidemiology

Disease and Health Conditions

  • Addiction
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Non-communicable diseases


  • Europe & Central Asia (all income levels)
  • European Union


  • Norway
  • Russian Federation

Other interests

  • autopsy
  • mortality trends
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