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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

Northern California Family Registry for Breast Cancer

In 1995, the National Cancer Institute established the Breast Cancer Family Registry to facilitate studies of the genetic origins of breast cancer.  To find the genes that cause breast cancer, a breast cancer patient, her sisters, mother, and children, if possible, are asked to participate in a study.

The Northern California Family Registry for Breast Cancer (FRBC) at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) is partnered with similar registries in the U.S. -- the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City - and internationally - Ontario, Canada, and Melbourne/Sydney, Australia. Through this partnership, this registry has enrolled over 12,000 breast cancer families, as well as women without a prior history of breast cancer, who serve as population controls for research studies.

The staff of FRBC work with the breast cancer patient, and ask her sisters, mother, and children, if possible, to participate in a study. Participants are asked about their 
family history of breast and other cancers, hormonal and lifestyle factors, dietary intake based on a food frequency questionnaire, and self-reported breast cancer treatment information. DNA and archived tumor tissue from previous procedures formay be collected from individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

The research team also conducts annual follow-up appointments with registry participants to assess the occurrence of new cancers in the enrolled families.

The Northern California site, led by Dr. Esther John, has recruited and followed 4,000 families. Among these enrolled participants, there is a substantial representation of racial/ethnic backgrounds and includes families with triple negative breast cancers.

The data made available through this work have been widely used throughout the scientific community in numerous collaborative studies and has contributed many new insights into the genetics of breast cancer.

Click here for an infographic highlighting the FRBC's 20th anniversary. 

Newsletters for Family Registry Participants

To learn more about the Family Registry for Breast Cancer, read our newsletters:

Spring 2016 Winter 2015
Fall 2013 Fall 2007 (Spanish version)
Spring 2012 Fall 2006
Summer 2010 Fall 2006 (Spanish version)
Fall 2007 Archives

Collaborative Studies and Publications

The data and biospecimen resources from the six collaborating family registries are available to qualified researchers worldwide. The Steering Committee for the Family Registry for Breast Cancer reviews applications to collaborate. For information on the application process, visit the Collaborations page on the Breast Cancer Family Registry website.. To date, over 100 research studies on a wide range of topics have been approved.
See the full list of research publications.

Participate Confidentiality

The research team maintains confidentiality of all data by assigning a study identification number to each registry participant. It does not share any personal information, such as names or addresses, with collaborating researchers. 

For more information about the international FRBC consortium, see:
CPIC Investigator(s):
Esther M. John, Ph.D.
Other Investigator(s):
Alice S. Whittemore, Ph.D. (Stanford University), Mary Beth Terry, Ph.D. (Columbia University), Irene Andrulis, Ph.D. (Mount Sinai Hospital, New York), John Hopper, Ph.D. (University of Melbourne), Saundra Buys, M.D. (Huntsman Cancer Center), Mary Daly, M.D., Ph.D. (Fox Chase Cancer Center)
National Cancer Institute
Funding Period:
Study Website: