January 10, 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

Why are Young Breast Cancer Patients More Likely to Die From Their Disease?

A New Study Finds Correlation Between Biological Subtype and Survival

FREMONT, CA (January 9, 2014) — In a recent study, researchers from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) found that the biological subtype of breast cancer diagnosed in adolescent and young adult women directly affects their risk of dying from the disease.

“We have known for a long time that women between the ages of 15 and 39 who have breast cancer are less likely to survive than older women with the disease,” said Theresa Keegan, Ph.D., a research scientist at CPIC and lead author of the study. “We wanted to know if the biological subtype of breast cancer had anything to do with survival differences, and we definitely found a link.”

Increasingly, scientists agree that breast cancer is comprised of important biological subtypes.  These subtypes are defined by the presence(+) or absence(-) of certain molecular markers, including estrogen and progesterone hormone receptors (HR) and the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2).

Adolescent and young adult women diagnosed with the triple-negative subtype, which has no hormone receptors or HER2 protein, were 2.7 times more likely to die from their disease, the authors reported. This subtype is the second most common and was found in 19 percent of study participants.

The researchers found that adolescent and young adult women diagnosed with the subtype HR-/HER2+ have a 1.6 times greater risk of dying from the disease than women with HR+/HER2- breast cancer, which is the most common type, present in 41 percent of study participants. Eight percent of participants had the more fatal subtype.

Race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status and insurance coverage also are contributing factors to breast cancer survival among women in this age group, the study found.

Adolescent and young adult women of black race/ethnicity have poorer survival outcomes than non-Hispanic white women of the same age. Those residing in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods or having public health insurance also had poorer survival outcomes, the authors noted.

“Previous CPIC studies have shown that young black women are more likely to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer relative to young white women,” Keegan said. “Yet this does not fully explain the poorer survival rates.”  

Other factors that may contribute to an unfavorable survival profile for young black women include variations in the course of treatment and level of follow-up care.

In a previous study, CPIC researchers found that women 15 to 39 years of age were more likely to be diagnosed with later stage disease, as well as the subtypes associated with poorer survival than older women, the authors noted.

“We found that after we considered stage at diagnosis, adolescent and young adult women had equivalent short-term survival to older women. Therefore, if a young woman thinks she has a breast abnormality, it is very important for her to seek medical attention. The best survival outcome comes from early detection,” Keegan noted.

CPIC researchers obtained data from the California Cancer Registry for 5,331 young women ranging in age from 15 to 39 diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2009. For comparison purposes, the researchers also evaluated data from 53,860 women between 40 and 64 years of age who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Further studies should consider whether breast cancer subtypes and other factors, including differences in treatment regimens, influence longer-term survival in young compared to older women, and white compared to black women, the researchers noted.

The study was supported in part by the State of California Department of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been e-published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and is pending print publication.

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.


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