March 1, 2012
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Did you know?

  • We envision a world free from cancer.

    Our research scientists and their teams collaborate with colleagues around the world to conduct cutting-edge research using large data-sets to:
    • understand the causes of cancer
    • find ways to prevent it or detect it early
    • improve outcomes for cancer survivors 
  • Our mission began more than 40 years ago.

    Established in 1974 as the Northern California Cancer Program, the organization later became known as the Northern California Cancer Center. The name was changed again in 2010 when it became the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), which reflects the organization's broader scope and demonstrates its large scale impact of preventing cancer before it starts.
  • We are an independent research institute and a valued partner to many.

    Through its collaborative approach, CPIC also serves as an asset to the nation’s leading cancer fighting organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, and to scientists worldwide, educators, patients, and clinicians, and is affiliated with the Stanford Cancer Institute.
  • We work hard to understand who gets cancer and why.

    Our scientists are frequent contributors to major scientific journals, and often present their findings at important cancer-related conferences. CPIC research has been covered by numerous local, national and international media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
  • Every case of cancer counts…and is counted.

    CPIC operates the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry as part of the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program and the California Cancer Registry. As required by law, the registry gathers data from hospitals and doctors on all cancers diagnosed and treated in nine Bay Area counties. This information is used to produce cancer statistics and as a platform for research to understand cancer occurrences and survival. Our registry regularly earns Gold Standard Certification by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
  • Our educational efforts reach people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.

    Our Community Education team provides important information to cancer survivors, health professionals and others through conferences and publications on many cancer-related topics including employment, patient advocacy, care giving, specific cancers, and treatments.

  • Breast cancer rates decline when hormone therapy is stopped.

    CPIC was first to report on the alarmingly high and increasing rates of breast cancer in the Bay Area and Marin County in the 1990s. In subsequent studies, CPIC found that when women stopped taking hormone replacement therapy, breast cancer rates declined immediately and dramatically. This showed that hormone therapy was a major contributor to the high rates previously reported and identified one clear path to breast cancer prevention.
  • Our work to associate tanning beds and melanoma prompted legislation.

    CPIC described increased occurrence of melanoma in young women in California, particularly in high socioeconomic areas, implicating use of tanning beds as one cause. This finding led to passage of the first statewide legislation to ban minors from using tanning beds, which should ultimately reduce occurrences of deadly melanoma in young persons.
  • Physical activity lowers your risk of Breast Cancer

    CPIC found that risk of breast cancer was lower for women engaging in more physical activity, such as walking and biking, doing household chores and yard work, and being active on the job. This shows a simple and practical way women can help prevent breast cancer from occurring.
  • Second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung and breast cancer.

    CPIC studies have shown that women exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke have a higher risk of lung cancer even if they don't smoke, and that exposure to household smoke increases their risk of breast cancer over and above the risk they incur from smoking themselves. These findings have been important in leading to anti-smoking legislation.
  • Vitamin D may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

    CPIC assessed whether sun exposure, which is the main source of vitamin D, is related to prostate cancer risk. Using the difference in skin color measured on the forehead and upper underarm as an indicator of sun exposure, the study found that prostate cancer risk was reduced by 50% in men with a high sun exposure index, with an even higher reduction in risk noted in men with certain alterations in the vitamin D receptor gene.
  • Survival outcomes differ among Asian women of different ethnic backgrounds.

    CPIC was the first to show that breast cancer survival is not uniform across women of different Asian ethnicities, irrespective of how advanced the cancer was when diagnosed. In California, Korean, South Asian and Vietnamese women had the poorest survival after breast cancer, pointing to the need in these communities for better screening and/or breast cancer treatment.
  • Melanoma is on the rise throughout California.

    CPIC demonstrated that the rates of both early and more advanced melanomas were rising in all populations in California. This disturbing finding signals a true and alarming epidemic of this deadly cancer, and it has been cited over 245 times in the medical literature since 2009 because it identifies a major public health problem.
  • Survival disparities occur across many cancer types.

    CPIC showed that survival after follicular lymphoma, a common form of this cancer, is lower in poorer communities than in more affluent communities. This demonstrates population disparities in cancer treatment and shows a need in poorer communities for more access to skilled lymphoma care, including access to new successful drug treatments.
  • Our nail salon studies have widespread positive impact.

    CPIC found that California nail salons had higher than expected levels of carcinogens and other banned substances in the air, identifying the need for better standards and the importance of clarifying whether such exposures lead to cancer and other undesirable health outcomes.
  • Tailored approaches to healthcare are needed to address cultural differences.

    CPIC used two approaches to learn how best to help Vietnamese communities in California receive lifesaving colorectal cancer screening: one approach involved lay health workers directly educating the community on the importance of screening, and the other involved advertising about colorectal cancer screening. CPIC found that the use of lay health workers worked best to improve the screening rate, proving that organized community involvement improves colorectal screening practices among Vietnamese-Americans in California.
  • Lung cancer afflicts nonsmoking women more than men.

    CPIC was the first to show definitively that among nonsmokers, women were more likely than men to have lung cancer. Until this paper, there were no hard data about the incidence of lung cancer in nonsmokers. This study has been cited extensively as motivation for other research to understand the reasons why.
  • Genetic screening is especially important for African American and Hispanic women.

    CPIC was the first to study the level of BRCA1 mutations (genetic changes responsible for increased risk of breast cancer) in nonwhite women. This work found that young African American and Hispanic women with breast cancer had a particularly high prevalence of BRCA1 mutations, and signaled the importance to these communities and their doctors of screening for this mutation when indicated.

A Simple Test that is 90% Effective Against Cancer

March 2012

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

Colorectal cancer claimed more than 5,000 lives in California last year, and it is the third most common cancer among both men and women. As you’ll read in this month’s In Front, it is one of the easiest cancers to detect and prevent. Yet, despite significant recent progress in reducing deaths and new cases of colorectal cancer, screening according to recommended guidelines is used by only half of people over 50 (those at greatest risk). Read below to find out more about this challenge and about what one of our research scientists is doing to improve those numbers. I’d also like to let you know about an exciting event we have planned for early this summer. Performers from some of the Bay Area’s leading dance companies are coming together to produce a one-of-a-kind evening of entertainment to Get In Front of cancer and benefit CPIC. Find out more about this exciting event below. Enjoy.

A Simple Way to Prevent Cancer

When it comes to cancer prevention, it doesn’t get much better than this. According to CPIC Research Scientist Bang Nguyen, Dr.P.H., “with early screening and detection, colorectal cancer is 90% preventable and curable.” Among the most easily detected and treated cancers, colorectal cancer is still the third leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. That’s one reason Dr. Nguyen has devoted so much of his time and energy to studying how to increase screening for colorectal cancer and educate people about its effectiveness.

Learn more about screening and how important it is for

Proposition 29 Seeks to Fund Cancer Research

Proposition 29 is a new California ballot initiative that, if passed, would provide more than $700 million a year for cancer research (including prevention, detection and treatment) as well as tobacco education and cessation. The funds would come from a $1 per pack additional tax on cigarettes sold in the state. Make sure you vote on June 5 on this important ballot initiative.

Find more information here, along with the full text of the initiative.

The Pipeline: Funding Supports Three Continuing Projects at CPIC

Three studies received continued funding in February. The research scientists directing those contracts or studies at CPIC are: Esther John, Ph.D., and Dee W. West, Ph.D. Of particular interest is the continued funding of LEGACY Girls Study headed by Dr. John. This multi-center study will recruit 900 girls aged 6-13 years, including 270 from the Bay Area, and follow them for 5 years. Half of the girls will be from families with breast cancer, and half without. Studying pubertal development in the girls will help us gain a better understanding of the role of early-life factors in breast cancer families that could impact breast cancer development and thus ultimately translate into new preventive measures for girls starting at a young age.

Visit the awards page for more information.

Save the Date! Get In Front Performance Scheduled for June 6

In an unprecedented gathering of dance talent, performers from prominent Bay Area dance companies will join together this summer for a one-night only, once-in-a-lifetime performance to benefit CPIC. The evening will include some of the best the Bay Area dance community has to offer, including performances by dancers from SF Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, ODC/Dance, AXIS Dance Company, Smuin Ballet, Zhukov Dance Theater, Robert Moses' Kin, and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Tickets for the performance will go on sale April 11—visit for information.

Don't miss out on this remarkable evening of entertainment.

Ways of Giving

Leslie is a cancer survivor who wants to make sure others don’t have to go through what she went through. A year out from her last chemo treatment and not only is she feeling good enough to raise funds to prevent cancer, she’s feeling so good she’s doing it by riding her bike 66 miles (a metric century)! As part of the Fremont to Fog Fundraiser, Leslie is raising funds for both CPIC and Breast Cancer Connections. You can support Leslie and CPIC at the same time by visiting the CPIC donation page and making a donation “in honor of” Leslie McGarry… Today! Leslie’s fundraising goal is $2,000 and she’s almost there. Your gift of any amount will help.

Make your donation to support Leslie and CPIC today