November 7, 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.

Press Releases

A Diet High in Fruits and Vegetables May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer, A New Study Finds

FREMONT, CA (November 7, 2013) — A new study addressing patterns of diet and breast cancer has found that women whose diets are primarily plant-based, consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables, have significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer, while women who consume a diet high in wine, salad and low-fat dressing may have increased risk.

The study was led by researchers from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and Columbia University who worked with information obtained from thousands of women to identify a correlation between dietary patterns and breast cancer.

While a lowered risk for breast cancer was observed in the plant-based diet group as a whole, of particular note were the women who reported consuming the highest amounts of fruits and vegetables. The researchers found this group to be 35 percent less likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) breast cancer than those who reported eating the fewest fruits and vegetables.

“The finding that women who are at high risk for ER- breast cancer can reduce their risk by consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is very encouraging. It provides a simple and important preventative measure for women to take, and one likely to reduce the risk of other major chronic diseases as well,” said Pamela Horn-Ross, Ph.D., research scientist at CPIC.

“The diet does not have to be vegetarian to make a difference,” Horn-Ross noted. “What we found is that the more fruits and vegetables consumed in the overall diet, the greater the benefit.” But she noted that even those consuming the greatest amounts of fruits and vegetables also consumed meat, chicken, fish, and grain-based foods to some degree.

The researchers observed that women who consumed larger amounts of salad, fish, wine, and coffee or tea had an increased risk of developing estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer. “While alcohol consumption accounts for some of this increased risk, it does not explain it entirely,” said Lilli Link, MD, MS, a nutrition specialist in private practice in New York, formerly affiliated with Columbia University.

“Women who consume two or more glasses of wine (or any alcoholic beverage) a day while also taking hormone therapy are at especially high risk of breast cancer, so concurrent use of hormone therapy among women consuming this dietary pattern may account for some of the risk,” Link said. “However, at this time, we don’t know what other factors may be involved.”

Published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study, “Dietary patterns and breast cancer risk in the California Teachers Study,” included 91,779 women from a large, diverse group that consists of active and retired teachers and school administrators in California. The participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire in 1995 regarding health status, dietary habits and lifestyle information, and were followed for 14 years thereafter.

The five major dietary patterns identified in the study included the plant-based diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables; a diet high in protein and fat, with meat, eggs, fried foods and high-fat condiments such as butter and mayonnaise; a diet high in convenience foods, pasta and bread products; a diet high in legumes, soy foods, rice and dark leafy vegetables; and the "salad and wine" diet, high in salads, low-fat dressing, fish, wine, and coffee and tea.

Over the 14-year period, 4,140 of the participants were diagnosed with breast cancer. The diets high in carbohydrates, in protein and fat, and in legumes and soy foods neither reduced nor increased breast cancer risk.

A number of reasons might explain why a plant-based diet might reduce breast cancer risk, the researchers suggested. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which may lower breast cancer risk by reducing the concentration of estrogen in the body and keeping glucose and insulin levels stable. Fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, which have been shown to inhibit growth of breast cancer cells.

The authors noted that a major strength of this study is its basis in a large, diverse group with dietary data collected prior to breast cancer diagnosis and based on a widely-used and validated food frequency questionnaire. Certain limitations were noted as well, including possible changes to dietary patterns over time and lack of distinction between cooked and raw vegetables.

In addition to Link and Horn-Ross, authors contributing to this NIH-funded study include Alison J. Canchola, MS, and Christina Clarke, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California; Leslie Bernstein of the City of Hope; Daniel O. Stram of the University of Southern California (USC); and Giske Ursin of the University of Norway and USC.

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California
The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is the nation’s premier organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. CPIC tracks patterns of cancer throughout the entire population and identifies those at risk for developing cancer. Its research scientists are leaders in investigating the causes of cancer in large populations to advance the development of prevention-focused interventions. CPIC’s innovative cancer prevention research and education programs, together with the work of the Stanford Cancer Institute, deliver a comprehensive arsenal for defeating cancer. For more information, visit CPIC’s official website at www.cpic.org.

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Media Contact: Jana Cuiper, 510-608-5160 | jana.cuiper@cpic.org