Population Sciences Program

About Population Sciences

The Population Sciences Program conducts research on cancer etiology, control and prevention with the intent of improving public health in the Greater San Francisco Bay area and beyond. It makes use of the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry and other datasets to determine patterns and trends of cancer incidence and mortality within the ten-county SCI catchment area, carries out epidemiologic studies to identify additional risk factors for cancer. 

The program establishes collaborations among basic and clinical scientists at Stanford, as well as at the national and international levels.

The ultimate goal of this research is to have a translational impact on clinical or public health practice.

To achieve this goal, we focus on three major areas of investigation: 

  • Innovative uses of cancer registry and surveillance data to identify and understand patterns and trends of cancer incidence and mortality in our catchment area and beyond 
  • Epidemiology approaches to identify and better characterize genetic and non-genetic risk factors in cancer etiology and progression 
  • Prevention research, primarily intervention trials, focused on the major known causes of cancer – tobacco use, diet, obesity and (relative lack of) physical activity

The cross-cutting themes of the program include studies in multiple racial/ethnic groups and studies in high risk populations. The program brings together population-based researchers with basic and clinical scientists and with many external collaborators to carry out its trans-disciplinary research objectives.

Program Directors

Ann Hsing, Ph.D.

Professor (Research) of Medicine (Stanford Prevention Research Center/Cancer Institute) and, by courtesy, of Health Research and Policy (Epidemiology)

Co-leader, Population Sciences
Stanford Cancer Institute


Esther M. John, PhD, MSPH

Professor (Research) of Medicine (Division of Oncology/Cancer Institute)

Co-leader, Population Sciences
Stanford Cancer Institute


Marcia L. Stefanick, Ph.D.

Professor (Research) of Medicine (Stanford Prevention Research Center) and of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Co-leader, Population Sciences
Stanford Cancer Institute


Program Directory

SCI Population Sciences Program

Available Data and Biospecimen Resources for Collaborative Research

Breast Cancer Family Registry (BCFR)

The BCFR is a multicenter cohort of ~11,000 breast cancer families from the U.S, Canada and Australia established in 1995, with systematic follow-up for new cancers and outcomes, updates of baseline data, and collection of new data items

Resources:  Baseline and follow-up data on family history and risk factors, clinical data, self-reported treatment data, blood samples (DNA, cell lines, plasma), pathology review data, tumor tissue (slides or TMAs), extensive germline molecular characterization (GWAS, Oncoarray, BRCA1, BRCA2, other candidate genes)

Website: http://www.bcfamilyregistry.org

SCI contact person:  Esther M. John, emjohn@stanford.edu

Women’s Health Initiative

WHI has rich phenotypic data, stored plasma, serum and buffy coat samples and cancer outcomes for 161,808 postmenopausal women (19% non-white), aged 50-79 at baseline (1993-1998) enrolled at one of 40 U.S. centers into either a Clinical Trial (CT, N=68,132) or Observational Study (OS, N=93,676) cohort. Women in the CT participated in one of two menopausal hormone trials (HT, N=27,347) and/or a diet trial (N=48,835) for which breast cancer was a primary safety or prevention outcome, respectively, over half of whom also enrolled in a calcium/vitamin D RCT of fractures and colorectal cancer, also a primary outcome of the diet trial. NCI has funded collection of all cancer outcomes in the ongoing follow-up of participants in WHI Extension Study, many of whom are participating in additional ancillary studies and WHI is part of several cancer consortia.


SCI contact person: Marcia Stefanick, stefanick@stanford.edu

WHI Life and Longevity after Cancer

LILAC is an NCI infrastructure grant (Multi-PI: G. Anderson, FHCRC; B. Caan, Kaiser RI; E. Paskett, OSU) for a WHI cancer survivor cohort. The LILAC survey is sent to women (N of cases as of 2016) with colorectal (3074), endometrial (1702), ovarian (1168), breast (12,554), and lung (3514) cancers as well as melanoma (2230), leukemia (975), lymphoma (1630 NH, 69 H) at baseline and annually. In addition to collecting treatment and recurrence data, LILAC is obtaining paraffin-embedded tumor tissue for all cases of lung, colorectal, endometrial, ovary cancers, all cases of triple negative breast cancer and a subsample of receptor positive breast cancers (up to 2000 cancers).


SCI contact person: Marcia Stefanick, stefanick@stanford.edu

Other Cancer Registry Resources

Cancer Registry


The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results (SEER) program of the NCI collects data on cancer diagnoses in 18 locations across the country, and annually collects information on approximately 1.5 million cancer cases (https://seer.cancer.gov/). Data from the GBACR and CCR have contributed to SEER for decades.

 Scarlett L. Gomez, Scarlett.Gomez@ucsf.edu


Cancer Registry

Greater Bay Area

The Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry (GBACR) gathers information about all cancers diagnosed or treated in a nine-county area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz). Data on approximately 30,000 cases are collected annually (http://www.cpic.org/; data.release@cpic.org). GBACR data are recognized by national and international registry standard-setting organizations for being of the highest quality.

Scarlett L. Gomez, Scarlett.Gomez@ucsf.edu


Cancer Registry


The California Cancer Registry (CCR) includes data from the nine counties of the GBACR and is the state’s population-based cancer surveillance system. It is legally mandated to collect information about all cancers diagnosed in the state. Annually, approximately 150,000 cases are included (http://ccr.ca.gov/; research@ccr.ca.gov).

Scarlett L. Gomez, Scarlett.Gomez@ucsf.edu