April 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.

Does Changing Where You Live Affect Cancer Risk?

April 2013

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

April is both National Minority Health Month and National Alcohol Awareness Month. In this issue of In Front, we bring to you two stories about our cancer prevention work that reflect these health focuses. We also take you behind the scenes to learn more about our investigations of damaged DNA, and risk and survival of breast and prostate cancers. With Mother’s Day coming up next month, please consider a gift for a special woman in your life in support of cancer prevention. Finally, we hope you will attend the upcoming 14th Annual PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic to support CPIC breast cancer education.




CPIC Scientist Talks about Alcohol and Cancer on Radio

As April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, we bring to you some recent alcohol-related radio news coverage featuring CPIC Research Scientist Christina Clarke, Ph.D. In February, Dr. Clarke was featured on KQED-FM’s Forum with Michael Krasny, commenting as a scientific expert in response to a recently published and somewhat controversial study finding on alcohol-attributable cancer deaths. The study authors – who were from other institutions - claim that “there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.” On the program, Dr. Clarke provided insights on alcohol intake and breast cancer risk, a topic that she and her colleagues have studied extensively as part of the California Teachers Study. She joined two other guests on the show – one of whom being an author of the recent study – in helping to make sense of the findings for the radio audience.


Listen to Dr. Clarke on “Study Links Alcohol to Cancer Deaths”




Minority Health Focus: Does Immigration to the US Affect Cancer Risk?

Important clues to the causes of cancer, particularly for specific racial/ethnic groups, can come from studying cancer trends in immigrants. If scientists find that immigrants have higher or lower cancer rates than those who remain in their home country, they know to focus less on genetics and more on environment or lifestyle factors – such as diet, physical activity, occupational exposures, and infections – as possible cancer risk factors. CPIC’s Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., and her team have looked at cancer rates among Asian and Hispanic immigrants, finding that the rates of most cancers increase after these groups immigrate to the US. Rates of stomach and liver cancer decrease, however, likely because after immigrating, these groups have lower rates of viral/bacterial infections that lead to these cancers. As these findings suggest, concentrating on environment or lifestyle factors may help us better understand the particular cancer risk that our growing populations of Asian and Hispanic immigrants face.


Learn more about this important work




Behind the Scenes at CPIC: Scientist Talks about Her Research and What Genes Have in Common with Cars

Meet CPIC Research Scientist Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, Ph.D. Dr. Oakley-Girvan recently sat down with CPIC communications staff to talk on video about some of her ongoing work. She and her team are using cutting-edge approaches to better understand the development of cancer and how we can reduce our risk and improve health. Working in a lab with specimens as part of her work, Dr. Oakley-Girvan is particularly interested in identifying genes that increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer. Through her work, she aims to identify how these genes interact with environmental factors - such as diet, stress, sleep and exercise - to reduce a person’s risk of cancer. As part of these efforts, Dr. Oakley-Girvan also conducts studies to improve chances of survival for cancer patients and decrease their risk of having cancer again.


Watch this video about Dr. Oakley-Girvan and what genes have in common with cars




Honor the Women in Your Life with a Meaningful Gift for Mother’s Day

CPIC’s work is especially important to women. Preventing breast cancer is a strong focus of CPIC research work, and we have also made strides in preventing cervical cancer and understanding risk factors associated with melanoma, a disease affecting more and more young women. With Mother’s Day just around the corner, CPIC invites you to show your appreciation for your wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, or friend by making a tribute gift to support CPIC’s cancer prevention work in their honor. Go to www.cpic.org/donate or contact sandi.farrell@cpic.org to make your gift by May 1st and we will send a personal card in time for Mother’s Day, May 12th, notifying the honoree of your meaningful gift. (The gift amount will be kept confidential.) You can also make a tribute gift in memory of a special woman who has touched your life with the option of CPIC notifying someone of your thoughtfulness.


Learn more about how CPIC can help you honor the women in your life for Mother’s Day




Reserve Your Spot at the 14th Annual PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic to Support CPIC Breast Cancer Education

The 14th Annual PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic supporting breast cancer education at CPIC will take place on April 29, 2013. CPIC Board Trustee Hilary Newsom Callan and Geoff Callan host this annual event in honor of their mothers, Tessa Newsom, who succumbed to breast cancer in 2002, and Barbara Callan, a 25-year breast cancer survivor. The event includes breakfast, a chipping and putting contest, an 18-hole shotgun golf game, lunch, on-course activities throughout the day, a cocktail reception, extravagant silent and live auctions, a gourmet dinner, and celebrity entertainment. The PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic has raised over $2 million for CPIC and provides critical funding for CPIC community education. This includes seminars and conferences, program scholarships, individual assistance/referrals, and print materials on topics such as: treatment choices, managing treatment side effects, family issues, health insurance, employment, family genetics, nutrition, self-advocacy in the medical system, and much more. Support this important work by registering today for this year’s PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic!


Find out more about the 14th Annual PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic