October 22, 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

Genetic Variant Protects Some Latina Women from Breast Cancer



This news release was issued jointly by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and the University of California San Francisco. 


Originating from Indigenous Americans, Variant Reduces Risk by 40 to 80 Percent

An international research collaboration led by UC San Francisco researchers has identified a genetic variant common in Latina women that protects against breast cancer.

The variant, a difference in just one of the three billion “letters” in the human genome known as a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), originates from indigenous Americans and confers significant protection from breast cancer, particularly the more aggressive estrogen receptor–negative forms of the disease, which generally have a worse prognosis.
 
“The effect is quite significant,” said Elad Ziv, MD, professor of medicine and senior author of the study. “If you have one copy of this variant, which is the case for approximately 20 percent of U.S. Latinas, you are about 40 percent less likely to have breast cancer. If you have two copies, which occurs in approximately 1 percent of the US Latina population, the reduction in risk is on the order of 80 percent.”

Published in the October 20, 2014 issue of Nature Communications, the new study showed that women who carry the variant have breast tissue that appears less dense on mammograms. High “mammographic density” is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

“We have detected something that is definitely relevant to the health of Latinas, who represent a large percentage of the population in California, and of other states such as Texas,” said first author Laura Fejerman, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and a member of UCSF’s Institute of Human Genetics. “This work was done as a collaboration of multiple investigators, many of us originally from Latin America. As a Latina myself, I am gratified that there are representatives of that population directly involved in research that concerns them.”

Epidemiological data have long demonstrated that Latina women are less susceptible to breast cancer than women of other ethnicities. According to National Cancer Institute data from 2007 to 2009, whites have about a 13 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, blacks about 11 percent, and Hispanics less than 10 percent. The lifetime risk among Hispanics with indigenous American ancestry is even lower.

For several years Fejerman and Ziv have studied Latina populations in search of genetic and biological explanations for these differences. “After our earliest studies we thought there might be a genetic variant that led to increased risk in European populations,” said Ziv. “But what this latest work shows is that instead there is a protective variant in Native American and Latina populations.”

In the new study, Fejerman, Ziv, and colleagues performed successive genome-wide association analyses of datasets from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and a study known as the Multiethnic Cohort. They replicated their initial findings in data from the Women’s Health Initiative study, from a study of breast cancer in Colombian women known as COLUMBUS, and from a study conducted in Mexico, ultimately incorporating DNA data from a total of 3,140 women with breast cancer and 8,184 healthy controls.

“Our breast cancer family registry has recruited and followed more than 4,000 breast cancer families. For this study, we provided cases and controls who self-identified as Latina or Hispanic,” said CPIC Senior Scientist Esther M. John, PhD, MSPH. “The DNA samples and data shared from these cases, combined with other samples from the San Francisco Bay Area, contributed to a total of 977 breast cancer cases and 722 controls that led to this important genetic discovery.”

The newly discovered SNP is on Chromosome 6, near a gene coding for an estrogen receptor known as ESR1. Fejerman and Ziv said that the biological basis of the association between the variant and reduced breast cancer risk is still not known, but their preliminary experiments indicate that the variant interferes with the action of transcription factors, proteins that regulate the expression of the ESR1 estrogen receptor.

“If we can use these results to better understand how this protects estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, that would be interesting and important,” Ziv said, “because right now we have no good way to prevent that type of breast cancer.”

Fejerman and Ziv are working to identify additional risk variants in Latinas and to combine these variants into predictive risk models for US Latinas. They are also collaborating with UCSF colleagues Laura J. Esserman, MD, MBA, professor of medicine, and Laura J. van ’t Veer, PhD, professor of medicine, on large-scale initiatives, still in the design state, to introduce testing for variants such as the newly identified SNP as part of breast cancer screening.

The study was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute.

Written by Pete Farley, senior public information representative at UCSF.

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About the University of California San Francisco
UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences; a preeminent biomedical research enterprise; and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

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