October 30, 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.

Press Releases

Obesity Increases Risk of Certain Breast Tumors Among African American and Hispanic Women

This Press Release was issued by the American Institute for Cancer Research in collaboration with the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.

New Insights on How Obesity Connects to Cancer Types In These Populations

WASHINGTON, DC (Oct. 30, 2014) - Two large new studies provide compelling evidence that obesity increases the risk of the most common type of postmenopausal breast cancer among both African Americans and Hispanics. Over one of every two African American woman and almost one of every two Hispanic woman is obese.

Announced today in advance of publication at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Annual Research Conference in Washington, these studies show that associations between body weight and breast cancer risk seen among white women hold true for African American and Hispanic women as well. This is significant because most breast cancer research has been conducted among white women, yet African American and Hispanic women have a higher incidence of the more aggressive types of breast cancer that are more challenging to treat, such as estrogen receptor (ER) negative tumors. They are also more likely to die of the breast cancer than white women. 


The first study, published today in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, is the largest of its kind among Hispanic women. Conducted by Esther M.  John, PhD, MSPH, Senior Research Scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and her colleagues, the study suggests that healthy-weight  Hispanic women who gain pounds through adulthood have increased risk for ER and progesterone receptor (PR) positive tumors after menopause.

The study included 1,262 premenopausal (497 cases, 765 controls) and 2,023 postmenopausal (759 cases, 1,254 controls)  Hispanic women pooled from two  U.S. population-based case-control studies: the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer   Study and the 4-Corners Breast Cancer Study. 
 
 "We saw that when Hispanic women became overweight or obese, it increased risk of ER and PR positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. We've  known this for  a long time for white women, but now we are seeing this also in Hispanic women," John said. 

 The few previous studies investigating obesity's link to breast cancer among US Hispanics have been small with inconsistent findings, says John. This large study fills in
lot of missing information about obesity and breast cancer in postmenopausal Hispanic women.      

"Breast cancer appears to have different risk factors in younger versus older women but by far, breast cancer is more common among postmenopausal women," said John. "This has huge implications for not just Hispanics but all women. We cannot change genetics or family history, but we can do something about obesity. You can eat less, choose healthier foods and do more physical activity. It may not that easy but it's possible. And it's important for not just lowering breast cancer risk but for many other diseases."

The other study, by epidemiologist Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and her colleagues analyzed the associations of obesity with different hormone-receptor types among over 15,000 African American women, finding that excess weight is linked with a 31 percent increased of ER positive tumors in postmenopausal Black women.

The study used case reports from the AMBER (African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk) Consortium, which combines data from four studies with a large number of African-American participants: the Black Women's Health Study (BWHS), Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC), Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS) and Women's Circle of Health Study (WCHS).

Examining a total of 2,165 ER positive cases and 1,093 of the more aggressive ER negative cases (including 491 triple negative breast cancers) matched against 12,437 women without cancer, the study also showed that risk is higher for postmenopausal women who were lean as young adults and gained weight in adulthood, with almost double the risk of ER positive tumors.

"We know that breast cancer has several subtypes and there is growing evidence that these subtypes have different risk factors. The distribution of these subtypes and risk factors are different for African Americans and Hispanics compared to white women," Bandera said.

"Our findings show that, similar to white women, African American postmenopausal women can reduce their risk of ER positive breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight," said Bandera. "Yet one study is not enough, we need to know more about what African American women can do to prevent and survive breast cancers of all types, which are often aggressive and deadly."

In addition to these two lead studies, other research on minority health, cancer, and lifestyle to be presented at the AICR Annual Research Conference include:
  • Findings of a study on how obesity contributes to breast cancer in Mexican women, presented by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March 2010 as Head of the Section on Nutrition and Metabolism.
  • Findings on whether the association of BMI with breast cancer is stronger in women of Asian than white ancestry by Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD, researcher at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center.

Written by Mya Rae Nelson, Associate Director of Communications with the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Studies:
Esther M. John et al. Overall and abdominal adiposity and premenopausal breast cancer risk among Hispanic women: The Breast Cancer Health Disparities Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Published OnlineFirst October 28, 2014.
http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2014/10/28/1055-9965.EPI-13-1007-T.abstract

Esther M. John et al. Body size throughout adult life influences postmenopausal breast cancer risk among Hispanic women: The Breast Cancer Health Disparities Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; Published OnlineFirst October 28, 2014.
http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2014/10/28/1055-9965.EPI-14-0560.abstract

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About the American Institute for Cancer Research
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).


About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California
The Cancer Prevention Institute of California 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 www.cpic.org.
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Media Contact: Jana Cuiper, 510-608-5160 | jana.cuiper@cpic.org