May 27, 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

Sharp Rise in Thyroid Cancer Linked to Modifiable Behavioral or Environmental Factors, CPIC study finds

Thyroid cancer increased from 14th to 5th most common cancer in women over last 20 years

FREMONT, CA (May 19, 2014) —The dramatic increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer worldwide over the past three decades likely relates to modifiable behavioral or environmental factors, as opposed to improved diagnostic capability, according to researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and their colleague at the Stanford University School of Medicine. 

“Thyroid cancer is increasing at an alarming rate in the population as a whole,” said CPIC Senior Scientist Pamela Horn-Ross, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “The significant, rapid and continual increase of this cancer throughout the diverse population of California over the last 20 years deserves our attention.”   

Thyroid cancer is now the fifth most common cancer in women, up from 14th most common 20 years ago. The rate of this cancer in women doubled between 1990 and 2005. It increased by 66 percent in men during this time period. 

The researchers conducted a broad study examining 22 years of incidence data across patients of all ages, ethnicities and socio-economic levels.

“We found significant increases in thyroid cancer rates for men and women of all population groups and for all sizes and stages of tumors,” Dr. Horn-Ross said. “While improvements in diagnostic technology most likely account for some portion of this increase, our analysis points squarely to a role for non-genetic factors in our behavior or environment as significantly impacting the continued rise in thyroid cancer rates.” 

“The factor or factors are unknown but are probably modifiable,” said CPIC Scientist Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D., who co-authored the study.  “Armed with a better understanding of how rapidly changing environment or behavior impact the development of thyroid cancer, appropriate changes could be made to mitigate that risk.”   

The researchers conducted a comprehensive evaluation of factors including patient age, sex, race/ethnicity, birthplace; tumor size and stage at time of diagnosis; socio-economic status; and residence in an ethnic enclave. An ethnic enclave is defined as a neighborhood that is ethnically and culturally distinct from the surrounding region, with greater co-ethnic social support and maintenance of native diets and lifestyles. The inclusion of trends by birthplace and ethnic enclave expands upon previous studies where this information was not available. 

Among the various types of thyroid cancer, papillary is by far the most common, accounting for more than 80 percent of the cases diagnosed in both men and women. The incidence of papillary thyroid cancer has increased significantly in both genders between 1988 and 2009, (the last year for which data was available at the time the study was conducted), with an accelerated increase in women after 2001. Women also experienced an increase in follicular thyroid cancer, but not other types of thyroid cancer, the researchers noted.

The study, “Continued rapid increase in thyroid cancer incidence in California: trends by patient, tumor and neighborhood characteristics,” was published today in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (CEBP).  In addition to Drs. Horn-Ross and Clarke, the study was authored by CPIC researchers Daphne Y. Lichtensztajn, M.D., Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, Ph.D., Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D., Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., and David O. Nelson, Ph.D.; and Chrysoula Dosiou, M.D. of the Division of Endocrinology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.  

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


Media Contact: Jana Cuiper, 510-608-5160 |