April 6, 2017
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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

The Influence of Neighborhoods on Breast Cancer Risk and Survivorship

The Cancer Prevention Institute of California recently led three studies examining the role of neighborhood social and structural factors on breast cancer risk and survivorship.

FREMONT, CA (April 6, 2017) — Neighborhood residential surroundings, specifically the social and man-made “built” environments, impact health outcomes by providing the local context for health behaviors and well-being. Only a few studies have been able to examine the role of neighborhoods in cancer development and survivorship while accounting for participants’ risk factors.  

The Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) recently led three studies published in the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention April focus issue on Geospatial Approaches to Cancer Control and Population Sciences. All three studies examined neighborhood environments in relation to breast cancer, the most common cancer among women. The studies used U.S. Census and other environmental data from the California Neighborhoods Data System, a resource established by researchers at CPIC. The characterization of local environments included neighborhood socioeconomic status and aspects that may impact walkability/physical activity (e.g., street connectivity, traffic density, number of businesses, parks, and recreational facilities) and diet (e.g., unhealthy food outlets). By focusing exclusively on these specific neighborhood characteristics, these studies identified relationships between the neighborhood environment and breast cancer risk and survivorship, pointing to the importance of local resources and structure in impacting individuals’ health. 

In the first study, for the first time, researchers evaluated the impact of the neighborhood factors that promote weight gain and obesity with risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. They found that living in certain types of neighborhoods, including those of higher socioeconomic status, more urban, and less mixed-land development, placed residents at higher risk for breast cancer. However, these patterns differed for racial/ethnic groups. Specific results include:  
  • Women living in the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods had a 21 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women living in the highest SES neighborhoods, particularly among Latinas.  
  • Breast cancer risk was lower for Japanese women living in more urban environments. 
  • Breast cancer risk was 10 percent higher for women living in neighborhoods with more unhealthy food outlets. 
  • Breast cancer risk was higher for Latinas living in neighborhoods with lower mixed-land development.
The study included 48,247 postmenopausal African American, Japanese, Latino and white women who participated in the California component of the Multiethnic Cohort, a population-based, prospective study of risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases.  Women resided predominately in Los Angeles County. Over a 17-year-period, 2,341 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

This work was supported by National Cancer Institute grant R01 CA154644. The Multiethnic Cohort was supported by National Cancer Institute grant U01 CA164973. The development of the California Neighborhoods Data System was supported by National Cancer Institute grant R03 CA117324 and by a Rapid Response Surveillance Study from the SEER program under a modification to contract N01-PC-35136. 

In the second study, researchers evaluated how neighborhood environments may influence body size among breast cancer survivors. They found breast cancer survivors were more likely to be overweight or obese if they resided in neighborhoods of lower socioeconomic status with more minorities, with more traffic, with more car commuters, and with more fast food restaurants. 

A higher relative prevalence of overweight individuals was seen for African Americans, U.S.-born Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders and foreign-born Hispanics. A higher relative prevalence of obesity was seen among African Americans and Hispanics. These racial/ethnic differences remained after accounting for neighborhood factors.

As maintaining a healthy body weight is a key modifiable factor for optimizing breast cancer survivorship outcomes, this study suggests that breast cancer survivors’ neighborhood environments may impact the risk of quality of life, recurrence, and survival.

Participants were drawn from 4,505 breast cancer survivors participating in the Pathways Study, a study led by Kaiser Permanente Northern California. The Pathways Study is designed to examine the effects of lifestyle, use of complementary and alternative therapies, and molecular and biological factors on cancer outcomes.

The Pathways Study is funded by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (R01CA105274 and U01CA195565). The development of the California Neighborhoods Data System was supported by National Cancer Institute grant R03 CA117324 and by a Rapid Response Surveillance Study from the SEER program under a modification to contract N01-PC-35136. 

In the third study, researchers examined the separate and combined effects of participant and neighborhood factors on breast cancer risk. They also evaluated how these effects may differ in different racial/ethnic groups, including white, African American, U.S.-born Hispanics, and foreign-born Hispanics. 

Researchers found that neighborhood socioeconomic status played a role in determining risk of breast cancer, even after accounting for participant’s own educational level. Women living in the highest socioeconomic status neighborhoods were nearly two times more likely to develop breast cancer than those in the lowest socioeconomic status neighborhoods. Urban built environment characteristics appear to explain some of these patterns, especially among African American and Hispanic women. 

The Neighborhoods and Breast Cancer Study included data from the San Francisco Bay Area Breast Cancer Study and the Northern California Breast Cancer Family Registry.  

This work was supported by National Cancer Institute grant R01CA140058. 

About the Cancer Prevention Institute of California
The Cancer Prevention Institute of California is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing cancer and to reducing its burden where it cannot yet be prevented. We are the only freestanding research institution working solely to prevent cancer using extensive population data. Our researchers study a wide range of cancer risk factors, such as racial/ethnic background, socioeconomic status, age, occupation, gender, genetic predisposition, geographic location, environment and lifestyle to determine how these factors affect frequency, distribution and types of cancers. For more information, visit the CPIC website at www.cpic.org

Media Contact: 
Donna Lock, 510-608-5160 | donna.lock@cpic.org