March 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.

CPIC in Back-to-Back News Stories

March 2013

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. We recognize that focus in this issue of In Front by providing encouragement for screening of this largely preventable cancer. We also share with you our just-released findings on the often overlooked topic of male breast cancer, our latest research on cancer genetics, and two recent breast cancer news stories featuring our scientists. As you can see, we have a lot going on and we’re glad to have you with us as we Get In Front!




First-of-its-kind Study on Male Breast Cancer Details Rates of Different Subtypes

Breast cancer, in both men and women, is increasingly recognized to be comprised of different subtypes. However, prior to a recent study involving CPIC scientists, detailed findings about male breast cancer subtypes were not available, making it difficult to understand much about how the disease develops and what treatments can be most effective. In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists from CPIC and MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas took a comprehensive look at male breast cancer, breaking down the disease rates by subtype and race/ethnicity. “We found that 81% of the male breast cancers were hormone receptor- or HR-positive, meaning that the tumors were the type that’s sensitive to estrogen or progesterone hormones. Fifteen percent had the more aggressive HER2-positive tumors and fewer than 4% had the difficult-to-treat triple receptor-negative (TN) tumors,” said CPIC Research Scientist Christina Clarke, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors. “This kind of detailed information from a representative sample of male breast cancer patients simply did not exist prior to this study.”


Learn more about these findings




Behind the Scenes: CPIC Scientists Invited to Serve on Editorial Board of Prestigious Cancer Research Journal

In addition to CPIC scientists conducting their own research, it is not uncommon for them to receive recognition for their expertise and leadership from others in the field of cancer research. CPIC research scientists Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., and Esther M. John, Ph.D., were recently invited by the editors of the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, to serve on the journal’s editorial board for the next two years. Drs. Gomez and John have agreed to serve on the board, through which they will play a critical role in helping to evaluate research and in recommending which scientific manuscripts to accept for publication in the journal. Together with the other editorial board members, they will use their expertise to review manuscripts, encourage other scientists to submit manuscripts, and contribute articles to the journal based on their own research. Congratulations to Drs. Gomez and John as they assume these important roles in the publication and dissemination of cancer research findings!


Learn more about Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention




Get Motivated to Get Screened!

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and there’s definitely good news to report about this cancer: it’s one of the few that, in almost all cases, we know how to prevent. In fact, CPIC Research Scientist Bang Hai Nguyen, Dr.P.H., says that “with early screening and detection, colorectal cancer is 90% preventable and curable.” But colorectal cancer is still the third most common cancer, suggesting that people may not be getting the screening they need. It’s recommended that everyone begin screening regularly at age 50. People at increased risk need to be screened before age 50. Some people are anxious about the procedure and it may help to hear what other people have said about their screening experience. If you or your loved one would rather not have a colonoscopy, it’s important to know that multiple screening options exist. If cost is a concern, some counties in California provide information about local, low cost medical services. Spread the word and Get In Front!


See how CPIC is studying colorectal cancer




Do Genes Associated with Cancer in Some People Also Influence Cancer Risk in Other Groups?

One of the most recent research grants funded at CPIC is supporting the work of CPIC Research Scientist Dr. Iona Cheng. Part of the collaborative study, Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE), Dr. Cheng’s work will involve looking at genetic risk factors across five racial/ethnic groups to understand whether DNA changes already found to be associated with cancer in one racial/ethnic group also influence cancer risk in other groups. This collaborative study is focused on typically understudied populations and will use close to 34,000 DNA samples from the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) study, conducted in Hawaii and California.


Learn more about our recently funded work




CPIC Scientists’ Comments Featured Back-to-Back in Breast Cancer News Stories

In addition to the recent news coverage of CPIC findings on breast cancer and prostate cancer, CPIC scientists were recently in the news twice in the same day, talking about breast cancer studies and trends among specific populations in the United States. On February 26th, CPIC Research Scientist Scarlett Gomez, Ph.D., was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, “Breast Cancer Ties to Environment Probed.” Dr. Gomez’s important work in studying breast cancer risk among US-born and foreign-born Asian women, as well as her related comments, appear on page two of the article. On the same day, CPIC Research Scientist Christina Clarke, Ph.D., was also featured in the news due to her expertise in studying breast cancer incidence trends. Dr. Clarke appeared on the CBS/KPIX evening news, responding to findings from a recent study reporting alarmingly increasing rates of the deadliest form of breast cancer in young women, ages 25-39.


Check out all of the recent news coverage of CPIC