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Our Scientists

Did you know?

  • Eighteen scientists and their teams 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Community Education team provides important information to cancer survivors, their families, health and medical professionals and others through conferences, publications and websites on many cancer-related topics including employment, patient advocacy, care giving, specific cancers, treatments and breakthroughs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Salma Shariff-Marco, Ph.D., M.P.H.

E-mail Salma.Shariff-Marco@cpic.org
Research Scientist II, Cancer Prevention Institute of California
Consulting Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine
Associate Member, Stanford Cancer Institute
Chair, CPIC Contextual Factors Working Group


Research Interests

  • Understanding the role of social determinants (such as discrimination, socioeconomic status, immigration, and place) across the cancer control spectrum
  • Understanding how race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, immigration and related factors simultaneously and synergistically influence cancer disparities
  • Evaluating the influence of contextual (neighborhood) factors on health behaviors and health outcomes 
  • Exploring methodological issues relevant to the study of place and cancer health disparities research
  • Survey research methods (instrument development and validation)

Research Programs and Studies


Research Publications

Shariff-Marco S, Breen N, Stinchcomb DG, Klabunde CN. Multilevel predictors of colorectal cancer screening use in California. Am J Manag Care 2013;19(3):205-16.

Shariff-Marco S, Breen N, Landrine H, Reeve BB, Krieger N, Gee GC, Williams DR, Mays VM, Ponce NA, Alegria M, Liu B, Willis G, Johnson TP. Measuring everyday racial/ethnic discrimination in health surveys: how best to ask the questions, in one or two stages, across multiple racial/ethnic groups? Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 2011;8(1):159-177.

Shariff-Marco S, Klassen A, Bowie J. Racial/ethnic differences in self-reported racism and its association with cancer-related health behaviors. Am J Public Health 2010;100(2):364-74.

Shariff-Marco S, Gee GC, Breen N, Willis G, Reeve BB, Grant D, Ponce NA, Krieger N, Williams DR, Landrine H, Alegria M, Mays V, Johnson TP, Brown ER. A mixed-methods approach to developing a self-reported racial/ethnic discrimination measure for use in multiethnic health surveys. Ethn Dis 2009;19:447-53.

Gee GC, Ro A, Shariff-Marco S, Chae D. Racism and the health of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Epidemiol Rev 2009;31:130-51.

Education

INSTITUTION AND LOCATION DEGREE, YEAR FIELD OF STUDY

University of Pennsylvania

B.A., 1996

Biological Basis of Behavior

Columbia University

M.P.H., 1998

Sociomedical Sciences

Johns Hopkins University

Ph.D., 2007

Social and Behavioral Sciences

National Cancer Institute

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 2006-2010

Cancer Prevention

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