April 19, 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

Most Mobile Health Apps for Cancer Survivors Come Up Short

New review by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California finds most apps lack the research needed to determine safety and effectiveness.

FREMONT, CA (April 19, 2017) — Researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) recently conducted a review of studies evaluating mobile applications for cancer survivors. The results of their findings were e-published in the March 24, 2017 issue of the Journal of Cancer Survivorship.

Mobile apps have been developed for cancer survivors to monitor symptoms or side effects, to track physical activity, eating habits, and weight, to support medication adherence and to manage care-related information.

Developers of apps for cancer survivors have a responsibility to ensure that the product is thoroughly tested to avoid possible harm and to maximize benefits for the user. 

Although this review of mobile app studies identified several promising areas for cancer survivor interventions, the study authors recommend app developers engage in a thorough evaluation of safety and effectiveness. Specifically, researchers recommend that best practices are established so that apps are described consistently, and are tested with an appropriate sample size to provide empirical data.

Their analysis found basic developmental and incremental testing steps may be skipped in the interest of getting the app to market quickly.

The study authors offer the following recommendations for improvement:
  • Conduct a needs assessment with cancer survivors and healthcare practitioners.
  • Involve healthcare practitioners and staff throughout the app development process. 
  • Provide potential users with an opportunity to evaluate the user interface. 
  • Tailor apps to survivors’ treatment history, stage of readiness to change, exercise ability, age, cognitive abilities, and individual health goals. 
  • Plan for appropriate infrastructure including IT support, secure data transmission protocols, adequate bandwidth to reduce or eliminate downtime, and adoption of legal and privacy requirements such as HIPAA.
  • Measure impact over a longer period of time. Researchers found most developers only evaluated the app over a short period of time. This can be misleading since users may initially enjoy the novelty of an app, but a majority stop using it within 1–3 months.

Ingrid Oakley-Girvan, the senior researcher on this study, comments, “As a scientist and public health professional I want to bring solutions to patients so they can enjoy long and healthy lives. Working with collaborative teams that include patients and other stakeholders is essential to harness technology and improve lives.”

According to Dr. Lorene Nelson, associate professor of health research and policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine, “There is tremendous potential for mobile health apps to improve long-term health outcomes among cancer survivors, but the field of mobile health research is in its infancy. The article by Dr. Oakley-Girvan and Ms. Davis is a very important contribution because it provides key recommendations for designing mobile apps that not only take advantage of technological capabilities but also apply rigorous scientific principles to meet the broad needs of cancer survivors.”  

Ingrid Oakley-Girvan is a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and a consulting assistant professor in the Department of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine as well as an associate member of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection and a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute.

Sharon Watkins Davis is a research associate at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California and a past director of the Cancer Information Service. This work was partially supported by funds provided by the Stanford Cancer Institute.

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


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