January 1, 2013
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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.

Is Being Too Clean Making Us Sick?

January 2013

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

Happy New Year! We are delighted to have you with us as we begin another year of work that helps us all Get In Front of cancer. With an eye to the new year, we’ve focused this issue of In Front on the future of many topics related to cancer. From the most cutting-edge research to help you and your loved ones lower your risk to work that will expand resources for those who are living with the disease now, this issue of In Front will give you a glimpse into some of CPIC’s most promising areas of advancement on cancer. We’ve also featured my response to the just-released national annual report on cancer.

CEO of CPIC Responds to National Report on Cancer

The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, which is based on data collected by CPIC and other institutions across the nation, has just been released. This year’s report shows declines in overall cancer deaths and in the incidence of some common cancers, but increases in the incidence of others, including human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers. CPIC’s CEO, Sally Glaser, Ph.D., notes, “The continued declines in lung and colon cancer incidence indicates some important prevention efforts (smoking cessation, screening) are working and should continue. But the rise in HPV-related cancers demonstrates that people need to protect themselves by being vaccinated against HPV, which is now possible.” Dr. Glaser, whose expertise includes virus-associated cancers, adds, “Sometimes infection or other consequences of viruses lead cells to grow uncontrollably and become cancer. Certain strains of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease among adults worldwide, can lead to cervical or other HPV-related cancers.” Dr. Glaser says vaccination to prevent HPV infection is important because, by extension, it also prevents most HPV-related cancers.

Read the National Cancer Institute’s press release on the report

Is Being Too Clean Making Us Sick?

In a recent post for the Stanford Medical School blog Scope, CPIC’s Christina Clarke, Ph.D., discusses new research based on something that’s contrary to popular belief about cleanliness. She references the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that living in highly hygienic environments is actually making many people sick. Overly clean environments, especially in childhood, are thought to result in a miscalibration of the immune system, making it attack things that are not harmful to the body. These kinds of environments are now understood to have contributed to the skyrocketing occurrences of asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disease in recent decades. Dr. Clarke indicates that CPIC scientists and colleagues at Stanford are studying whether these kinds of associations also hold for deadly breast and colon cancers occurring later in life. She also previews future avenues for immunologic means of cancer prevention.

Read Dr. Clarke’s blog post: “Cow Manure, Coughing Co-Workers & Cancer Prevention”

The Pipeline: Contributing Expertise in Studying Neighborhood Factors

As CPIC’s Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., has said before, “Cancer prevention is not just about making choices as an individual. Equally important is the environment around that person, such as his or her access to health care, affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, and the amount of support available from the community and neighbors.” As it turns out, similar neighborhood factors may be important to cancer survival, as well. Dr. Gomez and her team just received continued funding to contribute her social and built environment expertise to the Pathways study that is investigating factors related to breast cancer survival. “We are using state-of-the-art geographic information systems (GIS) to gain a broader understanding of how and what aspects of our environments influence cancer and cancer survival, and how this may vary for different communities and individuals,” says Dr. Gomez. “It will ultimately help us do a more specific job of preventing cancer and improving survival.”

Learn more about our recently funded work

Where it Can’t Yet Be Prevented: The Impact and Future of CPIC Community Education

For the past 39 years, CPIC’s Community Education Program has been an invaluable resource to the community, offering conferences and seminars, websites, print materials, and individual assistance to cancer patients and their loved ones. “The amount of cancer information that’s now available online and from other sources, as well as the number of medical specialists patients have to see, is overwhelming” says program director Pam Priest Naeve. “We help individuals understand which questions are the most important to ask, and provide them with critical information about cancer that is current and comes from credible resources.” The Community Education Program has enabled thousands to advocate for themselves, to make informed decisions about their health and healthcare, and to navigate a complex medical system. Community education staff will be working toward offering more programs, expanding the distribution and translations of print materials, and keeping registration fees low so that cancer education is accessible to all who need it.

Watch a new video featuring Community Education program director Pam Priest Naeve

Do Flame Retardants Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

In September, the New York Times ran a story on the potential danger of flame retardants in furniture, revealing the tension between perceived fire safety and exposure to toxic chemicals. Part of the problem with chemicals used as flame retardants – such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – is that while they help manufacturers meet fire safety regulations, they may harm people who are exposed to them, as the overall endocrine disrupting properties of these compounds is well documented. CPIC’s Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D., David Nelson, Ph.D., and Pamela Horn Ross, Ph.D., are leading the first large-scale study of breast cancer risk and exposure to fire retardants. Their investigation is based on specimens from California Teachers Study participants and is in collaboration with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for the measurement of contaminants in human tissues. This work is essential to inform public health practices and regulatory action to curb unnecessary exposures to the toxins.

Learn more about this study of flame retardants