March 22, 2017
Print This Page

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

Chemicals Previously Used in Furniture Detected in Women’s Bodies 10 Years After Ban

California study suggests banning of toxic flame retardant chemicals is not enough to protect against exposure.

FREMONT, CA (March 22, 2017) — In response to health concerns and widespread exposures, two formulations of flame retardant additives used in many consumer products and building materials were banned in California in 2006. 

The chemicals called Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) were broadly used to treat polyurethane foam cushioning in furniture and carpet padding, hard plastic casings in computers and other electronic appliances and equipment, textiles, adhesives and wire insulation. It has been suggested that PBDEs may potentially cause cancer and other adverse health effects.

In a study led by Susan Hurley of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and epublished in Environmental Science & Technology, researchers detected a modest increase in the levels of PBDEs found in the blood of California women collected over a four year period, beginning approximately five years after these compounds were banned. 

According to Susan Hurley, “While earlier research indicated that the banning of these chemicals was successful at reducing human exposures, the results from our study suggest that we should be careful not to declare victory too soon.”  

As one of the largest studies on this topic to date, the analysis included 1,253 women between the ages of 40-94 who were participating in the California Teachers Study, an-ongoing statewide study of female professional public school employees initiated in 1995 primarily to study breast cancer. Participants in the current study were restricted to those without breast cancer. 

The results of this study stand in contrast to earlier studies that indicated some initial declines in body burden levels shortly after the compounds were banned. Earlier studies, however, primarily focused on much younger women. Thus, it is possible that the lack of declines in the current study reflect differences in how older women metabolize and eliminate these chemicals from their bodies. An alternative explanation is that the way people are being exposed may have recently shifted. 

As the first study to show increases in PBDEs in blood since the U.S. ban, the authors note the value of biomonitoring in better understanding how people are currently being exposed. “If replicated by other studies, our findings underscore the need to evaluate additional regulatory efforts to safely manage the disposal of PBDE-laden products to mitigate human exposures” adds Susan Hurley. 

“Like PCBs, DDTs and other chemicals that do not break down easily, we will have PBDEs in our bodies for decades” said Myrto Petreas, one of the co-authors of the study. According to Meredith Williams (not involved in the study) “PBDEs are classic examples of chemicals that were used before we had a full understanding of the harm they could cause. Our Safer Consumer Products Program intends to promote safer chemicals as substitutes for hazardous ingredients in consumer products.”

Other researchers who participated in this study are Peggy Reynolds of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and Stanford University, Debbie Goldberg and David O. Nelson of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Myrto Petreas, June-Soo Park, Weihong Guo, Hyoung-Gee Baek, and Yunzhu Wang of the Department of Toxic Substances Control of the California Environmental Protection Agency, Leslie Bernstein of City of Hope, and Hoda Anton-Culver of UC Irvine.

This research was supported by funds provided by The Regents of the University of California, California Breast Cancer Research Program, Grant Number 16ZB-8501 and National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Grant R01 CA77398.

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

Media Contact: 

Donna Lock, 510-608-5160 |