November 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

Leveraging the Substantial Variations in Cancer Risks Among the Diverse Population of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders can Accelerate Cancer Knowledge, CPIC researchers report

The time is right to invest in research in the AANHPI population, the authors say

Fremont, CA (Nov. 10, 2014) - The Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) population is collectively the most rapidly growing racial/ethnic group in the U.S., and is very diverse, representing more than 30 countries and 100 languages. Yet most cancer research still considers the AANPHI population in aggregate, as one entity, masking important differences across specific groups, according to researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC).

“Not only do they bear unique burdens of incidence and outcomes for certain cancer types, members of the AANHPI population have substantial variability in cancer incidence and survival patterns across their ethnic groups,” said CPIC research scientist Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., lead author of an editorial in the current issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention (CEBP).

“AANHPI communities are flourishing across the country. We have a tremendous opportunity to draw insights into the causes of cancer and prognosis/survivorship by leveraging the heterogeneity within these populations,” Dr. Gomez said.

To illustrate the value of focusing cancer research on distinct subgroups within the AANHPI population, CPIC’s Asian American Working Group led a special section in the November issue of CEBP. Dr. Gomez served as guest editor of the section, which includes seven original articles – three from CPIC authors -- and a commentary on the importance of understanding this diverse community.

Summary of AANHPI Research in November Issue of CEBP

Cancer in Asian American and Pacific Islander Populations: Linking Research and Policy to Identify and Reduce Disparities

The number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. grew 46% from 2000 to 2010, and will more than double by 2060. These communities represent more than 30 different countries. Researchers, community leaders and policymakers must work together to address the unique challenges of this diverse community.Tung Thanh Nguyen, University of California San Francisco, and Chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, is lead author.

Patient and Provider Characteristics Associated with Colorectal, Breast, and Cervical Cancer Screening among Asian Americans
Screening rates for AANHPIs improve when patients and physicians speak the same language and, for mammography and cervical cancer screening, when patients and their physicians are of the same gender. Culturally-tailored online health resources also may help improve preventive cancer screening in Asian populations. This study demonstrates the efficiency of using large-scale electronic health record (EHR) data to focus on specific ethnic groups.  Caroline A. Thompson of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute is lead author.

Disaggregating Data on Asian American and Pacific Islander Women to Provide New Insights on Potential Exposures to Hazardous Air Pollutants in California
Recent studies suggest considerable variations in incidence of breast cancer by AANHPI ethnic group. This study combines demographics data and air toxics data to examine average concentrations of hazardous air pollutants in areas with higher numbers of AANHPI residents. The authors demonstrate the importance of disaggregated data and highlight environmental exposure disparities among ethnic minority neighborhoods. Thu Quach of CPIC is lead author.
Chronic Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer Risks among Asian Immigrants in New York City: Results from a Large, Community-Based Screening, Evaluation, and Treatment Program

Asian Americans have a high prevalence of hepatitis B infection, the major cause of liver cancer. This study found significant differences in liver cancer risk among Asian subgroups, varying by gender, age and specific place of birth, pointing to the need to identify those at higher risk for hepatitis B infection and target them for screening and treatment. Henry J. Pollack of New York University School of Medicine is lead author.
1,3-Butadiene Exposure and Metabolism among Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, and White Smokers
Differences in lung cancer risk among Native Hawaiians, whites, and Japanese-Americans may be explained by variations in the ability to metabolize certain carcinogens contained in cigarette smoke. Differences in excretion levels are partly due to genetics. Levels are higher in whites and lower in Japanese-Americans, which is consistent with each group’s risk of lung cancer.Sungshim Lani Park of the University of Southern California is lead author.
Lung Cancer Incidence Trends by Histology Type among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Populations in the United States, 1990–2010
Lung cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the AANHPI population. Researchers examined different types of lung cancer in distinct ethnic groups and found      significant increases in the incidence of adenocarcinoma among Filipino and Korean women, who have a low prevalence of smoking, and Chinese men. The findings underscore the need for research into factors other than smoking in distinct populations. Iona Cheng and Gem Le of CPIC are co-lead authors.
Disaggregated Data and Beyond: Future Queries in Cancer Control Research
A commentary on the “model minority” myth and why it persists, providing context for  social and cultural factors that shape health and disease for AANHPI populations, and strategies needed to advance research and health policy. Anh Bao Nguyen of the National Cancer Institute is the lead author.
According to Dr. Gomez and the Asian American Working Group at CPIC, federally funded research for AANHPI populations is sparse. These groups are not well represented in cancer epidemiologic cohorts, leading to limited availability of relevant and targeted information needed to study growing populations of AANHPIs.  

“Through investing in cancer research, we have a unique opportunity to accelerate the availability of cancer knowledge that is useful and impactful for the many distinct Asian American, native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population groups that reside throughout the country,” Dr. Gomez said.

CPIC and the Stanford Cancer Institute supported this work.

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


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