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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.

CPIC Studies

CPIC research scientists have a wide range of expertise and research interests. Our research studies provide important information about what causes cancer, how to reduce your risk, and how to help those who have it. We study many different cancers, including breast, prostate, lymphoma, ovarian, colorectal, lung and thyroid, as well as a broad range of exposures, including environmental and occupational exposures, diet, physical activity, neighborhood factors, and genetics/molecular factors.

Below is a sample of our work by topic: 

Environmental and Occupational Exposures 

Our environment includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, or the materials we use to do our jobs. CPIC research scientists are on the front-line in studying which exposures may cause or contribute to the development of cancer in California. Understanding which exposures are harmful and where they are found may help people to avoid them.

A closer look at environmental and occupational exposures and cancer:

Air Pollution and Breast Cancer
Is there a link between air pollution and breast cancer? Air pollution has already been linked to a range of health problems. CPIC research scientists investigate whether air pollution may put women at risk for breast cancer. 
California Nail Salons and Worker's Health and Safety
In a study of California nail salons, CPIC found 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 outcomes. In partnership with Asian Health Services and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, CPIC is addressing worker health and safety through community outreach, research, and policy advocacy. 
Read news coverage of our work on nail salons air quality and products.

Other studies on environmental and occupational exposures and cancer risks: 
Published Findings

For a full list of CPIC publications on these areas, please visit PubMed.

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Health Disparities and Neighborhood Factors

How do risk factors for breast cancer differ between whites and Hispanics? Does our race/ethnicity, nativity, or socioeconomic status influences our risk of cancer? Does the marital status and economic resources of a cancer patient impact survival?  How does the neighborhood environment impact risk factors for cancer, as well as survival? Research scientists at CPIC are dedicated to answering these questions through their innovative research.  

Cancer Disparities  are defined as differences in cancer incidences (new cases), all existing cases, cancer deaths, cancer survivorship, and burden of cancer or other health conditions among specific populations or groups. Environmental, social, and cultural factors influence cancer incidences and outcomes among various groups and CPIC aims to broaden our understanding of these factors to help improve health outcomes for all.

A closer look at cancer disparities: 

Lung Cancer Survival Among Chinese American 
Survival factors found to differ for men and women in the first study of Chinese Americans with lung cancer. CPIC study finds longer survival for married women and those living in higher socioeconomic neighborhoods. Read more about shared findings from this study.

Selective Studies on Cancer Disparities:
The Influence of Neighborhoods on Breast Cancer Risks 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. Read the full press release to learn more about important findings from these studies. 

Selective Studies on Neighborhood Factors and Cancer: 
Published Findings

For a full list of CPIC publications on these areas, please visit PubMed.

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Genetics, Gene-Environment Interactions, and Biomarkers Research 

Cancer is caused by changes to certain genes that alter how our cells function. Some of these changes occur naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division while others are the result of environmental exposures that damage DNA. Our behaviors and the activities we engage in day-to-day may influence how our genes function and may enhance or reduce our risks of cancer. 

At CPIC, our research scientists strive to improve our understanding of how our genetics and its interactions with the environment affect our cancer risks and to share this knowledge with the community to enhance cancer prevention strategies, address communities of higher risks, and to promote protective behaviors.  

Selective studies related to genetics, gene-environmental interactions, and biomarkers:
CPIC research scientists also are studying biomarkers that can measure and predict the risks of diseases and environmental exposures. Below is a selective list of work we've done:
Published Findings

For a full list of our publications on these areas, please visit PubMed.

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Research on Specific Cancer Sites

Ongoing studies at CPIC address the burden of cancer in a number of ways. Some studies focus on the cause of a particular type of cancer. With these studies, recently diagnosed patients are asked to share their life histories or genetic information. Other studies recruit large numbers of healthy people to document their lifestyles and experiences before cancer ever happens. Below, you will find descriptions of our ongoing research studies organized by the cancer site they address.
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Studies by Cancer Site