Belinda Farias Nicolau

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Dean of Research and Graduate Dental Education; 
Canada Research Chair in Life Course Oral Epidemiology (Tier 2)

Belinda Farias Nicolau
Contact Information
514-398-4400 Ext 094655
Email address: 
belinda.nicolau [at]

Belinda Nicolau is as an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Dentistry at McGill University. She obtained her DDS degree from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil and a MSc in Dental Public Health from Barts and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK. Belinda completed her PhD degree in Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, London, UK under the supervision of Aubrey Sheiham. After a brief stint with Paul Speight also at University College London, she pursued a postdoctoral fellowship with Paul Allison and Eduardo Franco at McGill University, Canada. In the spring 2005, Belinda took up a faculty position as an Assistant and then an Associate Professor at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, after which she moved to McGill University in December 2011.

Research Interests

My main research interests lie in the field of oral epidemiology; specifically I study the aetiology of chronic oral diseases (COD), including oral cancer and oral inflammation, using epidemiological and life course approaches. The goal of my research program is to better understand the causes of COD and their potential links with major chronic diseases. Currently my work focuses on two main projects:

The life-course approach to studying the etiology of cancer in the upper aero digestive tract: The HeNCe Life Study

Head and neck cancers (H&NC) occur in the mouth, throat and larynx. Yearly, there are 300,000 deaths and over half a million new H&NC cases in the world. They are the 8th most common cancer worldwide representing nearly 8% of male cancers, with 5-year survival rates of 50%. These low survival rates have not improved in the past 30 years despite advances in diagnosis and treatment. Known risk factors include tobacco smoke, alcohol consumption, diet and in a subset of H&NC, human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. So far, understanding the risk factors has been of little benefit; while the overall H&NC incidence has decreased in some populations, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer has been rising. Moreover, observed global disparities in H&NC incidence cannot currently be explained on the basis of the geographical distribution of known risk factors.

Our research group is conducting a hospital based case-control study at multiple urban health centers in Canada (Montreal), Brazil (São Paulo) and India (Calicut) - the HeNCe Life study (Head & Neck Cancer Life Course study) - to investigate the role of genetic, viral, behavioural, psychosocial and socioeconomic factors in H&NC aetiology. It uses the life course framework to investigate how these factors act either cumulatively or independently to increase H&NC.

The current hypothesis is that there are two distinct pathways for the multistage carcinogenesis of H&NC: one linked to tobacco and alcohol, and the other related to HPV infections. Based on the different clinical and molecular-genetic characteristics of these H&NC, the hypothesis proposes that distinct risk factors will be related to the distinct pathways. We use the life course framework to study whether H&NC have different risk profiles. This unique approach permits measuring several domains of exposure throughout life while taking into consideration the multiple effects of duration and timing of exposures. The use of the life course framework allows for the integration of multiple (environmental, behavioural, biological) exposures over time and thus is ideal for the study of H&NC since exposures do not manifest immediately as disease. This framework will identify potentially modifiable targets (behavioural and environmental) early in life.

HeNCe Life Study Control Group 

Quebec Adipose and Lifestyle InvesTigation in Youth (QUALITY) cohort – Oral health component

Increasing empirical evidence suggests an association between common COD (e.g., dental caries, periodontal diseases) and other major chronic conditions (e.g., obesity, diabetes type II (DMII), coronary heart disease (CHD)) in adults. Although the biological plausibility linking these diseases is strong, the nature of these associations remains debatable. Two biological pathways, inflammation and infection, have been used to explain the associations between COD and major chronic diseases. The inflammation pathway is based upon the evidence that excess adipose tissue produces a hyper-inflammatory response that affects immune and inflammatory systems, which in turn increases susceptibility to oral infections. By contrast, the infection pathway hypothesizes that inflammatory mediators produced by oral infections have systemic metabolic impacts. Indeed, the mechanism that explains the association between COD and obesity, DMII and CHD is complex and multi-directional. The unravelling of these associations is further complicated by the fact that behavioural and environmental factors at different life stages are known to influence COD, obesity, CHD and DMII.

The long term aim of this study is to monitor inflammatory markers (e.g., TNF levels (in gingival tissues, saliva and serum), composition of the oral biofilm and clinical signs of COD) throughout childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in children at risk of developing obesity. This longitudinal assessment will not only permit us to examine the associations described above, but also allow us to understand the underlying mechanisms by which they are related.

The oral health component is nested in an ongoing longitudinal cohort study, the QUALITY Cohort, which investigates the natural history of obesity in Quebec youth. It includes Caucasian children aged 8-10 years at entry at high-risk of overweight/obesity due to the obese status of one or both parents. A total of 634 children and their biological parents were recruited through schools located within 75 km of Montreal and Quebec City. Baseline data were collected from 2005 to 2008 and the 1st follow-up started 2 years after baseline measures (2007), when children were 10-12 years old, and finished in 2011. The 2nd follow-up is scheduled to start in 2012 when the adolescents will be 13-15 years of age. We plan to study these children and their families until early adulthood.

The QUALITY Cohort uses a longitudinal assessment of oral health in children at risk of obesity, collecting data on an array of exposures, which allows an investigation of the influence of these factors concurrently in the development of COD and other major chronic conditions. By better understanding if and how these diseases relate in youth, public health practitioners will be able to design more effective programs (i.e., targeting obesity and oral health simultaneously).


Research Group


Research Associate

Geneviève Castonguay

Research Assistant

Nicolas Drolet

Expectations for graduate students


Current postdoc trainees

Claudie Laprise: project: « Étude sur la relation entre virus du papillome humain (VPH) et cancers de la tête et du cou »


Past postdoc trainees

Iskandar Tamimi Mariño; project: Cholinergic regulation of bone turnover: Hip fracture risk in Alzheimer patients treated with Acetyl-cholinesterase inhibitors


Current graduate students

Haider Al-Waeli, PhD; project: Clinical Efficacy of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (Ibuprufen) Chronotherapy in the Healing after Periodontal Surgeries- A Randomized Clinical Trial

Akanksha Srivastava, PhD; project: Individual and societal impact of Head and Neck tumors

Sreenath Madathil, PhD; project: Life course behavioural risk models of upper aerodigestive tract cancers: A multicenter study

Akhil Soman, PhD; project: Role of genetic polymorphisms, tobacco smoking and alcohol use in risk for head and neck cancers: a cross - cultural comparison

Melissa Aline da Silva, PhD; project: Longitudinal associations between obesity and gingival inflammation

Letian LI, MSc; project: The effect of β-Blocker usage on head and neck cancer survival and complication rates

Osama Alghamdi, MSc; project: Development and implementation of a database for oncology patients treated at the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Montreal General Hospital

Lojain Bassyoni, M.Sc; Project: McGill Oral Premalignant Lesions Registry


Recent summer trainees

Ana Paula Reboucas: Working in a systematic review related to use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy and bone healing in pre-clinical trials at McGill University.

Angela Tianqi Wang; project: Family history of cancer and risk of head and neck cancer: Results from the HeNCe Life Study

Jun Li; project: Time well spent? Linking screen time with children' periodontal health


Recent graduates

Vamseedhar Myneni, PhD. Project: Cellular and biochemical mechanisms of the effect of osteocalcin on adipocytes

Anu Edasseri, MSC; project: Oral health promoting policies in schools and oral health status of Quebec children

Nada Farsi, PhD; project: Epidemiology of Human Papilloma Virus Related Head and Neck Cancers

Khady Ka, PhD; project: Fat and bone metabolism in relation to gingival inflammation in children

Farnaz Rashid-Kandvani, MSc; project: Access to dental services for people using a wheelchair

Nida Amir, MSC; project Perceptions of dental students about the role of the dentist in the prevention of HPV related oral cancer

Sreenath Madathil, MSc; project: Paan chewing: intergenerational habit transmission and lifetime dose-response relationship with oral cancer among a subset of South Indian population

Shahul Hameed, MSc; project: Association between periodontal health and oral cancer in a sample of subjects from India

Akhiil Soman, MSc; project: The association between life course socioeconomic position and oral cancer among a sample of Indian subjects

Beatriz Ferraz, MSc; project: Identifying curriculum challenges to reduce oral health inequities

Nada Farsi, MSc; project: Risk factors for head and neck cancer highlighting the importance of HPV viruses

Patricia da Rosa, MSc; project: « Indices de défavorisation des écoles comme facteurs prédictifs de l’état de santé buccodentaire des élèves au Québec »

Hilina Hitimana, MSc; project: The association between functional foods and dental caries experience

Manuela Mandu Hrit, PhD; Pàproject: Sleeping problems and malocclusion

Roozbeth Khosravi, MSc; project: « La maladie parodontale et l’obésité chez les enfants »

Areas of expertise: 
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Life course epidemiology
  • Periodontal disease
  • Obesity
Research areas: 
Population Oral Health
Selected publications: 

Madathil SA*, Rousseau M-C, Allison P Netuveli G, Humphris GM, Varghese I, Shiraz S, Castonguay G, Thekkepurakkal AS*, Shahul HP*, Nicolau B. Maternal and paternal contribution to intergenerational psychosocial transmission of paan chewing. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 2015 Aug;43(4):289-97.

Farsi NJ*, El-Zein M, Gaied H*, Lee YC, Hashibe M, Nicolau B, Rousseau M-C. Sexual Behaviour and Head and Neck Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Cancer epidemiology and biomarkers & prevention, 2015 Dec;39(6):1036-46.

Rashid Kandvani F*, Nicolau B, Bedos C. Access to dental services for people using a wheelchair. American Journal of Public Health, 2015 Nov;105(11):2312-7.

Wu X, Al-Abedalla K, Rastikerdar E, Abi Nader S, Daniel NG, Nicolau B, Tamimi F. (2014). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and the risk of osseointegrated implant failure: a cohort study. Journal of Dental Research, 93(11):1054-61.

Kâ K*, M-C Rousseau, Henderson M, Tran S, Kaartinen M, Dhar Myneni V, Nicolau B (2014). Circulating undercarboxylated osteocalcin and gingival crevicular fluid tumour necrosis factor-α in children. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 41(5):467-72

Khosravi R*, Kâ K*, Huang T*, Khalili S, Nguyen BH, Nicolau B, Tran SD (2013). Tumor Necrosis Factor-α and Interleukin-6: Potential Interorgan Inflammatory Mediators Contributing to Destructive Periodontal Disease in Obesity or Metabolic Syndrome. Mediators Inflamm,(728987)1-6.

El-Zein M, Parent M-E, Nicolau B, Koushik A, Siemiatycki J, Rousseau M-C (2013) Body mass index, lifetime smoking intensity, and lung cancer risk. International Journal of Cancer 133(7):1721-31.

Kâ K*, Rousseau MC, Lambert M, O’Loughlin J, Henderson M, Tremblay A, Alos N, Nicolau B (2013). Association between lean and fat mass and indicators of bone health in prepubertal Caucasian children. Hormone Research in Paediatrics 80(3):154-62

Kâ K*, Rousseau MC, Lambert M, Tremblay A, Tran SD, Henderson M, Nicolau B. (2013). Metabolic syndrome and gingival inflammation in Caucasian children with a family history of obesity. Journal of Clinical Periodontology 40(11):963-93

Muirhead VE, Levine A, Landry A, Nicolau B, Bedos C (2013). Life course experiences and lay diagnosis explain low-income parents' child dental decisions: a qualitative study. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 41(1):13-21.

Santos B*, Nicolau B, Muller K, Bedos C, Zuanon, AC. (2013) Brazilian dental students' intentions and motivations towards their professional career. Journal of Dental Education 77(3):337-44.

Kâ K*, Nicolau B. (2012) Periodontal treatment combined with tongue cleaning reduces oral malodor among patients with periodontitis, whereas for patients with gingivitis, tongue cleaning alone is sufficient. Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice 12(3):159-61.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W. (2012) How will a life-course framework be used to tackle wider social determinants? Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 40(Suppl. 2):33–38.

Legault V, Burchell A, Goggin P, Nicolau B, Brassard P, Guenoun J, Forest P, Mayrand M-H, Franco E, Coutlee F. (2011) Generic Microtiter Plate Assay for Triaging Clinical Specimens prior to Genotyping of HPV DNA via Consensus PCR. Journal of Clinical Microbiology;49(11):3977-9.

Lambert M, Van Hulst A, O’Loughlin J, Tremblay A, Barnett T, Charron H, Drapeau V, Dubois J, Gray-Donald K, Henderson M, Lagacé G, McGrath J, Mathieu M-È, Mark S, Maximova K, Nicolau B, Paradis G, Pelletier C, Poirier P, Sabiston C. Cohort Profile: The QUebec Adipose and Lifestyle InvesTigation in Youth (QUALITY) Cohort. International Journal of Epidemiology, online publication

Farsi N*, Nicolau B. (2011) Safety of Oscillating-Rotating Powered Brushes Compared to Manual Toothbrushes: A Systematic Review. Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice  11(4):168-70.

da Rosa PC*, Nicolau B, Brodeur JM, Benigeri M, Bedos C, Rousseau M-C. (2011) Associations between school deprivation indices and oral health status. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 39(3):213-20.

Kâ K*, Rousseau M-C, Nicolau B. (2009) Supportive periodontal care for patients with chronic periodontitis may produce better clinical outcomes when delivered by a specialist instead of a general practitioner, but at a higher cost. Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice 9(4):231-233.

Khosravi R*, Tran SD, Lambert M, O’Loughlin J, Kâ K*, Feine JS, Caron C, Tremblay A, Nicolau B. (2009) Adiposity and gingival crevicular fluid tumour necrosis factor-alpha levels in children. Journal of Clinical Periodontology 36(4):301-307.

Pluye P, Grad R, Levine A, Nicolau B. (2009) Tensions between quantitative and qualitative data: An exercise for novice mixed methods researchers. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 3(1):58-72.

Nicolau B, Rousseau M-C. (2008) Association of height with inflammation and periodontitis: the study of health in Pomerania. Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice8(2):95-96.

Chaput J-P, Gilbert J-A, Caron C, Nicolau B, Tremblay A. (2007) Addressing the obesity epidemic: What is the dentist’s role? Journal of the Canadian Dental Association 73(8):707-709.

Nicolau B, Netuveli G, Kim M*, Sheiham A, Marcenes W. (2007) A life-course approach to assess psychosocial factors and periodontal disease. Journal of Clinical Periodontology 34(10):844-850.

Nicolau B, Thomson M, Steele J, Allison P. (2007) Life course epidemiology: concepts and theoretical models and its relevance to chronic oral conditions. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 35(4):241-249.

Vilela L, Nicolau B, Mahmud S, Edgar L, Hier M, Black M, Franco E, Allison P. (2006) Comparison of psychosocial outcomes in head and neck cancer patients receiving a coping strategies intervention and control subjects receiving no intervention. Journal of Otolaryngology 35(2):88-96.

Bedos C, Brodeur JM, Arpin S, Nicolau B. (2005) Dental caries experience: A two-generation study. Journal of Dental Research 84(10):931-936.

Sheiham A, Nicolau B. (2005) Evaluation of social and psychological factors in periodontal disease. Periodontolgy 39(1):118-131.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W, Bartley M, Sheiham A. (2005) Association between socio-economic circumstances at two stages of life and adolescents’ oral health status. Journal of Public Health Dentistry 65(1):14-20.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W, Allison P, Sheiham A. (2005) The life course approach: Explaining the association between height and dental caries in Brazilian adolescents. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 33(2):93-98.

Allison PJ, Edgar L, Nicolau B, Archer J, Black M, Hier M. (2004) Results of a feasibility study for a psycho-educational intervention in head and neck cancer. Psychooncology 13(7):482-485.

Allison PJ, Nicolau B, Edgar L, Archer J, Black M, Hier M. (2004) Teaching head and neck cancer patients coping strategies: results of a feasibility study. Oral Oncology 40(5):538-544.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W, Hardy R, Sheiham A. (2003) A life course approach to assess the relationship between social and psychological circumstances and gingival status in adolescents. Journal of Clinical Periodontology 30(12):1038-1045.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W, Bartley M, Sheiham A. (2003) A life course approach to assessing causes of dental caries experience: The relationship between biological, behavioural, socio-economic and psychological conditions and caries in adolescents. Caries Research 37(5):319-326.

Nicolau B, Marcenes W, Sheiham A. (2003) The relationship between traumatic dental injuries and adolescents’ development along the life course. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 31(4):306-313.

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