October 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.

Marin Breast Cancer Rates Continue Decline

October 2013

Dear Get In Front Supporter,

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The most common cancer among women, breast cancer is the focus of more than half of our work, which addresses breast cancer causes, changing patterns, and prevention. We encourage you to learn about our multifaceted approach to understanding breast cancer by reading about our findings and current studies below, and to join our Prevent Breast Cancer campaign. Also, tickets to our upcoming and highly anticipated Get In Front Performance on November 12th are going fast, so be sure to get yours before they sell out!




Latest Data Show Previously Alarming Marin Breast Cancer Rates Continue to Decline

CPIC and other partners affiliated with the Marin Women’s Study (MWS) have released newly available 2006-2010 CPIC-collected data, confirming a sustained downward trend in Marin County’s breast cancer incidence and mortality rates. The investigators have kept a particular focus on breast cancer rates in Marin since the late 1990s and early 2000s, when they were the highest in the nation. “Through the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry at CPIC, we’ve been tracking breast cancer in Marin County closely for over a decade, from a time when their deviation from the California average was excessively high, until now when they are not statistically different from the average,” said CPIC Research Scientist and MWS Steering Committee Member Christina Clarke, Ph.D. “So we are very encouraged to see the rates continue a downward trend and hope that this trend continues in the future.” In 2006, Dr. Clarke and collaborators were the first to reveal the connection of hormone replacement therapy to the elevated rates of breast cancer in Marin County.


Learn more about Greater San Francisco Bay Area breast cancer rates




Join the Prevent Breast Cancer Campaign and Help Advance Internationally Renowned Work

Over half of CPIC's work is dedicated to understanding breast cancer so we can prevent it. We have a strong legacy. One of our most notable accomplishments has been identifying and reporting the dramatic decline of breast cancer rates when many women stopped taking hormone therapy, helping countless women make informed decisions about their health. We also found that the BRCA1 gene is particularly common in Hispanic women and young African American women, identifying the particular need for risk reduction and early detection in these typically understudied groups. Our innovative approach in breaking down typically lumped together groups revealed surprisingly high breast cancer rates among subgroups of Asian women. Some of our newest studies are focused on cutting-edge environmental topics, such as researching the connection between flame retardants and breast cancer. Knowing all too well the need for this work, CPIC Board Trustees Hilary Newsom Callan - who lost her mother to breast cancer - and Louisa Gloger - who faced breast cancer herself - have generously contributed to the Prevent Breast Cancer campaign.


Join Hilary and Louisa and support the Prevent Breast Cancer campaign




The Pipeline: Do Higher Hormone Levels in Girls Contribute to Breast Cancer in Later Life?

Since our last issue, CPIC has won eight grants, including support for a newly launched pilot study on what may be some of the earliest indicators of breast cancer risk. We know that women's hormone levels, as well as their height, body mass index, and age at first menstruation in adolescence are associated with breast cancer risk. However, we do not yet know whether preadolescent and adolescent hormones - which may be connected to the aforementioned factors - affect breast cancer risk. Understanding both how hormone levels relate to growth and pubertal development in young girls, as well as how certain behaviors may influence hormone levels, could mean earlier interventions for girls and women to prevent breast cancers. To inform the design of a larger planned study on hormones in young girls, CPIC Research Scientist Esther John, Ph.D., and her study team are determining best ways to collect urine samples from girls over several menstrual cycles or over several months in those who have not started menstruation yet.


Learn about our other recently funded projects




Behind the Scenes with Producers of the Upcoming Get In Front Performance

Garen Scribner, James Sofranko, and Margaret Karl - co-chairs of the 2nd Annual Get In Front performance on November 12th – don’t want to accept a future where cancer is the norm. Just last year, two of their colleagues – a dancer in Ballet San Jose and a backstage crew member for San Francisco Ballet – lost their lives to the disease. “Through the Get in Front Performance, we hope to inspire the community’s support of the scientists who do amazing cancer prevention work at CPIC, and in turn make a difference for many generations down the road,” they said. “This year’s show will feature 10 of the Bay Area's most celebrated companies, ranging from San Francisco Ballet - the country's oldest professional ballet company - to more contemporary dance companies, including one of San Francisco’s own hip-hop breakdancing crews. A special treat will be a world premiere of choreography from Yuri Zhukov of Zhukov Dance Theatre, created specifically for the Get in Front Performance.” Join Garen, James and Margaret on November 12th!


Purchase your tickets to the 2nd Annual Get In Front Performance




Stanford Blog Features CPIC Scientists’ Posts on “Gel Polish” and “Door Dings in DNA”

Once again, as part of our partnership with the Stanford Cancer Institute, CPIC scientists have contributed to Scope, the widely read blog of the Stanford School of Medicine. In mid-September, CPIC Research Scientist Thu Quach, Ph.D., who specializes in studying the health of nail salon workers, authored a post on the potential dangers of gel nail polish, the latest trend in nail salons. (Dr. Quach was also recently featured in a National Institutes of Health podcast on nail salon-related health issues.) Earlier in September, CPIC Research Scientist Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, Ph.D., whose work focuses on identifying genes that increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer, wrote another Scope piece. Her post expands upon a topic she spoke about in a video from the April issue of In Front – how certain human behaviors can lead to “dings” in our DNA that we may be able to repair over time.


Find out more about CPIC’s affiliation with the Stanford Cancer Institute