Elizabeth Stern


1915 – 1980


Who was Elizabeth Stern?

Elizabeth Stern was a Canadian-born American pathologist, especially well known for her insights on the cell's progression from a healthy to a cancerous state. Stern received her medical degree from the University of Toronto in 1939 and the following year migrated to the United States, where she became a naturalized citizen in 1943. Stern was one of the first scientists specializing in cytopathology, the study of diseased cells. From 1965 she was professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Los Angeles.

In 1963, Stern published what is widely recognized as the first case report linking a specific virus to a specific cancer. She was also the first to show a definite link between the prolonged use of combined oral contraceptive pills and cervical cancer, connecting the use of the contraceptive pill with cervical dysplasia.

Her breakthrough studies of cervical cancers changed the disease from fatal to one of the most easily diagnosed and treatable. She demonstrated that a normal cell advances through 250 distinct stages before reaching an advanced cancerous state. This allowed the development of effective diagnostic techniques and prophylactic measures, which, combined with this cancer's slow rate of metastasis, reduced its fatality rate drastically.

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Sep 19, 1915
Also known as
  • Elizabeth Stern Shankman
  • Dr. Elizabeth Stern
  • Canada
  • University of Toronto
Aug 18, 1980
Los Angeles

on July 23, 2013


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