June 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.

Preventing the #1 Cancer in Men

June 2013

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

June is Men’s Health Month and at CPIC we’re working on important studies to help men reduce their risk of cancers. This issue of In Front includes some of our prostate cancer prevention findings for you to both know and share with others. It also features some of our other work to understand cancer risk, including a new study of body fat distribution, our recent blog post on body shapes, and a video of a CPIC scientist talking about neighborhoods. We know we can reduce our risk of some cancers by being physically active, which is what world-class dancers will be doing later this year in a performance to benefit CPIC, as you’ll also read about below.




June is Men's Health Month: What CPIC Says about the #1 Cancer in Men

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and CPIC research is helping us understand what men can do to reduce their risk. Led by CPIC Research Scientist Esther John, Ph.D., the San Francisco Bay Area Prostate Cancer Study has shown that certain methods of food preparation, as well as calcium supplement consumption among some groups of men, may impact prostate cancer risk. “Our findings from the San Francisco Bay Area Prostate Cancer Study suggest that avoiding the consumption of fish and meat that are charred from broiling or pan-frying may be a practical way of reducing the risk of prostate cancer,” says Dr. John. “Additionally, other findings from this study suggest that men may reduce their risk of prostate cancer by lowering their calcium intake, particularly those who are genetically low calcium absorbers.” Of the most common cancers in men, prostate cancer is followed by lung and colorectal cancers. To reduce risk of lung and colorectal cancers, men should avoid smoking and get screened for colorectal cancer regularly starting at age 50.


Find out more about what else men can do to reduce their risk of cancer




The Pipeline: Does Distribution of Body Fat Increase Risk of Breast and Colon Cancers?

As part of a multi-institutional collaboration, CPIC Research Scientist Iona Cheng, Ph.D., recently received funding to study the role of obesity and the distribution of body fat in relation to risk of breast and colorectal cancers. Focusing on a multiethnic population, Dr. Cheng and her study partners will measure body fat and also identify lifestyle behaviors, molecular biomarkers, genes and gut bacteria that may predict body fat distribution and cancer risk. To measure body fat, they will use imaging methods, including DXA – which uses x-ray technology to measure body fat percentage - and MRI – which uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. To learn more about Dr. Cheng and her research focus, watch this video.


Learn more about our recently funded work




Apple- or Pear-shaped: Which is Better for Cancer Prevention?

Once again, as part of our partnership with the Stanford Cancer Institute, a CPIC scientist has contributed to the widely read Stanford School of Medicine’s blog, Scope. Last month, CPIC Director of Research Ann Hsing, Ph.D., wrote a piece on the link between body shape and cancer risk. In her post, she defines two common body types: apple-shaped and pear-shaped. People with pear-shaped bodies have “larger thighs relative to a smaller waist, with most of their fat deposited in the lower body,” says Dr. Hsing. “In contrast, people who have “apple-shaped” bodies are heavier in the middle and have their body fat accumulated around the waist.” Dr. Hsing’s post explains how these body shapes differently impact cancer risk.


Read Dr. Hsing’s post to find out how these body shapes influence cancer risk




Behind the Scenes at CPIC: Research Scientist Shares About Her Interest in “Place” and Health

Meet Salma Shariff-Marco, Ph.D. Dr. Shariff-Marco recently sat down with CPIC Communications staff to talk about some of her ongoing work. Through her work, she focuses on analyzing cancer disparities by finding out why some groups get cancer more than others or are less likely to survive after a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Shariff-Marco is interested most in studying how certain aspects of neighborhoods may impact cancer risk and survival. For example, in collaboration with CPIC’s Drs. Scarlett Gomez and Theresa Keegan, she studies factors such as the average income and education level in a neighborhood, as well as that neighborhood’s landscape, ethnic makeup, and available community resources. They focus in on how these factors may affect a person’s cancer risk or shape a person’s opportunities for or barriers to optimal survival after a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Shariff-Marco is also studying how racial/ethnic discrimination may influence cancer disparities, and has particular expertise in measuring self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination, after having developed a new survey tool during her tenure at the National Cancer Institute.


Watch a video of Dr. Shariff-Marco




Save the Date for the 2nd Annual Get In Front Performance and Party!

After last year’s sold out Get In Front performance, which raised nearly $150,000 for CPIC cancer prevention research, dancers from the San Francisco Ballet and other legendary Bay Area dance companies will again generously volunteer their talents in the upcoming Get In Front 2013 performance. It will take place on November 12, 2013 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This year, organizers Garen Scribner, James Sofranko and Margaret Karl are increasing the event’s fundraising goal to $250,000 and promise an even bigger and more thrilling event. The evening will include an after party for all ticket holders and a VIP pre-performance reception, in addition to the world class dance performance. All proceeds will support CPIC’s cancer prevention mission. “All these dancers who are young and healthy can see a future where cancer is no longer a problem and want to help us get to that place by donating their time,” CPIC CEO Sally Glaser, Ph.D., has said. “It's unbelievably inspiring."


Get in Front of cancer with us on 11-12-13!