March 19, 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.

Cancer-causing chemicals in CA Gold Country

March 2014 

Dear Get in Front Supporter

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In this issue, we report recent published findings related to screening of this preventable cancer. We also introduce a new study of cancer-causing chemicals in California’s Gold Country. This work, and CPIC’s mission overall, is much in line with the World Health Organization’s recent report calling for a stronger focus on cancer prevention. Also highlighted in this issue – our recent, successful scientific symposium and news about our 40th anniversary celebration on June 26th.

CPIC Scientist Co-Author of Study Identifying Traditional Chinese Medicine Providers as Important to Colorectal Cancer Screening Efforts

Gem Le, Ph.D.
Images: CPIC, iStockphoto

According to a recent study, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine can serve as valuable and culturally appropriate resources for promoting colorectal cancer screening in the Chinese immigrant community, which suffers high death rates from this cancer. While colorectal cancer screening is a cost-effective preventive measure, screening rates are low among most ethnic groups, including Asian Americans. “Given the high use of traditional Chinese medicine among Chinese Americans, we wanted to determine if a useful approach to promoting colorectal cancer screening could involve traditional practitioners, such as acupuncturists and herbalists,” said CPIC Research Scientist Gem Le, Ph.D., and co-author of the study. “We found that both providers and their participants were open to having providers communicate messages about biomedical approaches to health and colorectal cancer prevention. Many of them were already engaged in preventive education with their clients…[W]e believe these practitioners can have a positive impact on colorectal cancer screening among Chinese Americans.

Learn more about the findings

Get tickets now for CPIC’s Get In Front Mother’s Day Garden Brunch on May 4th!

CPIC Announces Award Recipients to be Honored at 40th Anniversary Celebration

Five individuals and one institution will be honored at CPIC’s upcoming 40th anniversary event, “Pioneering Prevention,” on Thursday, June 26 at Gap Headquarters in San Francisco. Among those to be honored are: Esther M. John, Ph.D., M.S.P.H. (Saul A. Rosenberg Research Award); Samuel Bronfman II (Doris Fisher Community Service Award); Garen Scribner, James Sofranko and Margaret Karl (Inspiration Award); and the Stanford Cancer Institute (Outstanding Partner Award). Longtime CPIC Board Trustee Doris Fisher, after whom one of the awards is named, said, “I am proud to have been a member of the outstanding CPIC Board of Trustees for the past 30 years, which supports our mission of cancer prevention. The men and women we are honoring represent the pillars of the work done at CPIC.” In addition to these awardees, we are also pleased to announce that Fremont Bank has generously sponsored our 40th anniversary event. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, click here.

Learn more about our 40th anniversary awards

The Pipeline: Do Women in California's Gold Country Have More Cancer Causing Chemicals in their Bodies?

Image: iStockphoto
Three grants were recently awarded to CPIC for our research work. One of the new grants supports CPIC’s work as part of a study of the health effects of living among abandoned mine waste. While the California Gold Rush of 1849 was profitable for many, contaminants resulting from the extensive gold mining that took place now exist throughout the Gold Country region of Northern California. As part of a community-research collaboration, CPIC Research Scientist Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D., and her team have partnered with Sierra Streams Institute and the University of Reno at Nevada to conduct a pilot study to determine if women living in this region – where breast cancer rates rank in the top ten of all California counties – exhibit higher levels of arsenic and cadmium, two carcinogenic metals pervasive in the region. It is the first human health study conducted in the Gold Country region focused specifically on levels of mining-related toxins in the body.

Learn more about our recently funded work

World Health Organization's 2014 Cancer Report Calls for Stronger Focus on Prevention

Last month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, released the World Cancer Report 2014, revealing alarming increases in cancer rates worldwide. Consisting of over 250 leading scientists from more than 40 countries, the Report authors specifically emphasize the need for urgent implementation of efficient cancer prevention strategies. “Despite exciting advances, this Report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem,” states Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and co-editor of the book. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.” CPIC is at the forefront of just this kind of work, conducting studies with large data sets to understand the causes of cancer to aid prevention and early detection efforts.

Read more about the World Cancer Report 2014

CPIC/Stanford-Sponsored Scientific Symposium Fosters Collaboration


On February 10th, researchers from around the country gathered at Stanford for the inaugural Dee West Scientific Symposium, jointly sponsored by CPIC and the Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI). Titled, “The Role of Population-Based Cancer Registries in Cancer Prevention and Control: A Cells-to-Society Approach,” the event emphasized scientific integration of data on genetic and molecular markers, individual behaviors, and the social environment, to strengthen resources for cancer research. CPIC Chief Scientific Officer Ann Hsing, Ph.D., said, “We cannot overemphasize the important role that high-quality population-based data plays in estimating the burden and distribution of cancer, identifying specific cancer-related problems, developing effective cancer prevention and control policies, and providing access to representative study populations.” The event also honored Dee West, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Cancer Registry of Greater California and CPIC Emeritus Research Scientist, for his many accomplishments related to cancer prevention research and population-based cancer registries. Due to the attendees’ overwhelmingly positive response to the event, CPIC and SCI will extend the symposium into an annual event.

Watch video footage of the Symposium and download event program