February 12, 2014
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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 Research Finds Genetic Factor in Obesity

February 2014 

Dear Get in Front Supporter

February is Cancer Prevention Month! Two of our stories below highlight some of our latest work in advancing cancer prevention, through studies aimed to better understand cancer risk. Besides working to reduce your own risk, you can celebrate Cancer Prevention Month by inquiring about our upcoming Get In Front Mother's Day Garden Breakfast, by listening to our staff talk about the impact of CPIC research and data on prevention at CPIC's upcoming breast cancer conference, and by saving the date for CPIC's 40th anniversary celebration on Thursday, June 26, 2014 in San Francisco.



Journal Selects Article of CPIC's Iona Cheng on Obesity Genetics Among Top 10 of 2013

As referenced last month, CPIC Research Scientist Iona Cheng, Ph.D., along with researchers of the Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology consortium, has been recognized for groundbreaking work unraveling how genes influence dietary preferences to cause weight gain and obesity. The research article based on this work has been selected as a 2013 "Article of the Year" by the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE). "We believe the top ten articles for the year represent work that is the best in the field," said AJE Editor-in-Chief Dr. Moyses Szklo. "Our selection process is rigorous and involved a review of all articles accepted for publication last year. We believe the obesity genetics research study meets the highest standard of excellence and advancement in epidemiology." The manuscript is highlighted in the AJE and Dr. Cheng and her coauthors will be honored at the 47th annual meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research to be held in Seattle, June 24-27, 2014.

Find out more about Dr. Cheng's recent honor and related study results




CPIC Supporter to Host Mother's Day Garden Breakfast

Andrea Ralston learned about CPIC through CPIC Board Chair Sam Bronfman, a friend of hers and her husband's. Impressed with the caliber of CPIC's scientists and work, and having faced a cancer diagnosis herself, she decided to become more involved. In addition to serving on the CPIC Development and Communications Committee, she is co-hosting the upcoming Get In Front Mother's Day Garden Breakfast, in support of CPIC's mission to prevent cancer and reduce its burden. The event, which is open to individuals and families, will take place at 11:00 am on the Sunday before Mother's Day, May 4, 2014, in Atherton. It will include a sumptuous breakfast, gift bags, and a silent auction. Speaking of how the event came about, Andrea says, "We wanted to celebrate moms and also make Mother's Day gift giving easy and meaningful." Help CPIC Get In Front of cancer by honoring the women in your life at this pre-Mother's Day breakfast. For more information, please contact Sandi Farrell at sandi.farrell@cpic.org or 510.608.5003.


Contact us for more information about the Get In Front Mother's Day Garden Breakfast




The Pipeline: Is Increased Cancer Risk of Mexican Immigrants Due to Greater Exposure to Harmful Chemicals in the US?

CPIC received two grants in support of our research since the last issue of In Front. One is a new grant in support of CPIC's contribution to UCSF's "Internal Chemical Exposure Study among Mexican Immigrants." The study team is assessing how the migratory experience of Mexican American women influences the levels of potentially harmful substances present in their blood, which may increase their risk of developing breast cancer. CPIC Research Scientist Esther John, Ph.D., and her team will be contributing stored blood samples from the "San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer Study," as well as providing epidemiology data for analysis. The study team is aiming to identify new biological markers of breast cancer risk, as well as new modifiable risk factors to shape breast cancer prevention programs among higher generation Latinas.


Learn more about our recently funded work




CPIC Conference on Breast Cancer Impact, Treatment and Care to Include Presentations by CPIC Cancer Research and Data Experts

CPIC's Allison Taylor Holbrooks/Barbara Jo Johnson Breast Cancer Conference annually informs hundreds diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as their family, friends, caregivers and health care providers. This year's conference will be on Saturday, March 1st from 8:00 am to 3:15 pm at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco's Presidio. It will include, in addition to medical updates, new topics such as: how genetics and our surroundings shape our health, presented by CPIC's Scarlett Gomez, Ph.D.; how cancer data is collected, protected, and used to improve cancer prevention and care, presented by CPIC's Kathleen Davidson-Allen; a strong focus on dental and medical care before, during and after treatment; rehabilitation and physical recovery, and finding emotional and spiritual balance. "This conference is recognized for taking on timely topics through the insights of a superb caliber of speakers," said Pam Priest Naeve, director of CPIC Community Education. "It also gives us an opportunity to understand the broader world of our environment and how it impacts cancer risk and prevention."


Find out more about the conference and register




Improving Adolescents' and Young Adults' Experience After a Cancer Diagnosis

Did you know that, compared to children, adolescents and young adults, as a group, experience significantly more cancer diagnoses? CPIC Research Scientist Theresa Keegan, Ph.D., is conducting groundbreaking work as part of the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Patient Health Outcomes and Patient Experience (AYA HOPE) study to better understand the impact of cancer on this under-studied population. She recently spoke to CPIC Communications on camera about her work.


Watch Dr. Keegan speak about her studies of cancer in adolescents and young adults