March 1, 2016
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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

Survival Factors Found to Differ For Men and Women in the First Study of Chinese Americans with Lung Cancer

Cancer Prevention Institute of California new study finds longer survival for married women and those living in higher socioeconomic neighborhoods.

FREMONT, CA (March 1, 2016) — In the first study of Chinese Americans with lung cancer, led by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and published in the February issue of the Journal of Global Oncology, researchers found some key differences between men and women. 

These findings are relevant for the 4 million Chinese Americans living in the United States, the largest Asian group. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among men and the fourth most common cancer among women. For both Chinese-American men and women, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths. 

Chinese American women diagnosed with lung cancer lived, on average, 5.7 months longer than Chinese American men with the same diagnosis.

Married women lived 3.1 months longer than non-married women. Women who lived in the highest socioeconomic status (SES) neighborhoods lived a full 12.3 months longer than women who lived in lower-income neighborhoods. However, these social factors had less impact on the survival for men. 

Neighborhood SES is a composite index comprised of U.S. Census data based on education, occupation, employment, household income, poverty, rent and house values.

According to the study’s lead researcher, Scarlett Lin Gomez, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and the Stanford University School of Medicine, “Is this effect seen because women who are married have greater social support, mental support, or financial support? Is the driving factor here that some neighborhoods have greater access to certain economic and medical resources? The benefit of this kind of epidemiology is that we can uncover patterns that help us pinpoint areas where we might focus, whether for research or interventions. Once we are able to determine what the factors are that are driving these patterns, we can design targeted interventions that may improve the length and quality of survival, for Chinese Americans and other populations.”  

Previous studies have also indicated that the better survival among women, regardless of race/ethnicity, may be related to differences in tumor molecular or biologic profile, drug metabolism, and/or DNA damage susceptibility and repair capacity.

For both men and women survival was longer for those treated at a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center and varied by the type of lung cancer. The study found that men who were treated at NCI-designated centers lived an average of 22.4 months, whereas those treated at non-NCI centers lived for an average of 12.1 months. Chinese American women treated at NCI centers also lived significantly longer than Chinese American women not treated at NCI centers (34.2 months versus 17.6 months). 

Dr. Gomez chose to focus her research on Chinese Americans diagnosed with lung cancer because of the population’s unique characteristics.

"First, among Chinese Americans, rates of lung cancer have been either increasing or stable, depending on which histology you look at. And this is interesting because this is in contrast to patterns we see in other U.S. populations,” said Dr. Gomez. "Second, lung cancer is the most common cause of death in the Chinese American population. Third, Chinese Americans tend to have unique molecular profiles such as epidermal growth factor receptor mutations, and among Chinese American females, there is a much, much higher proportion of those who have never smoked."

In this study, researchers looked to the population-based California Cancer Registry to find data on 1,616 women and 2,216 men who were diagnosed with lung cancer between 2000 and 2010.

Other collaborators on the study include Juan Yang of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California; Iona Cheng of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and Stanford Cancer Institute; Christina A. Clarke of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Stanford Cancer Institute and Department of Health Research and Policy (Epidemiology), Stanford School of Medicine; Shih-Wen Lin, Margaret McCusker, and Alan Sandler of Genentech; Manali Patel and Heather A. Wakelee of the Stanford Cancer Institute.  

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, can make our vision of a world without cancer a reality. For more information, visit CPIC’s official website at

Media Contact: 
Donna Lock, 510-608-5160 |