Asian Ethnic Groups Experience Different Risks for Certain Cancers, Diseases, Study Finds
There are distinctive patterns of cancer incidence among different Asian-American groups, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal CA, the New York Times reports. For the report, lead author Melissa McCracken -- an epidemiologist with American Cancer Society, which sponsored the study -- and colleagues examined data on Asian-American cancer patients in California from 2000 to 2002. According to the Times, 3.7% of California residents are Asian, and the state sorts cancer data by ethnic group. Researchers focused on five Asian-American groups: Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. Overall, Asian-Americans had lower rates of cancer than other groups in the U.S., though cancer remains a major cause of death for Asians, the Times reports.
By subgroup, researchers found that:
- Vietnamese men have liver cancer and die from it at a rate seven times higher than that of non-Hispanic white men;
- Koreans are five to seven times more likely than whites to develop stomach cancer;
- Chinese women, compared with other Asians, have high rates of lung cancer and death rates from the disease, despite low rates of smoking. The report said that Vietnamese women also have high lung cancer incidence and death rates, despite low smoking rates. The women might have high exposure to secondhand smoke at home or at work and to vapors from cooking oil, according to the study;
- Filipino men have higher rates of prostate cancer than other Asians;
- Filipino women have the highest death rate from breast cancer among Asians. Filipino women also have the highest rate of obesity among Asians, and obesity has been linked to breast cancer;
- Japanese-Americans have high rates of colorectal, stomach, prostate and breast cancer compared with other groups. Obesity is thought to be a factor, with 52.5% of Japanese men and 28.3% of women considered overweight and many physically inactive; and
- Vietnamese and Korean women have higher cervical cancer rates and lower rates of screenings for the disease. According to the report, language barriers, lack of health insurance and cultural attitudes about screening might pose barriers to care.
Researchers also found that Asians who have been in the U.S. the longest are more likely to develop cancers, such as breast and colorectal, that are the most common in the U.S. The finding might be related to obesity, inactivity, high alcohol consumption and fatty diets, as more Asians adopt American habits. Recent immigrants tend to develop cancers, such as stomach and liver, that are more common in their home countries. Chronic infections, such as with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, and the consumption of foods preserved with nitrates and nitrites are thought to cause cancers of the stomach and liver, the Times reports. While programs to screen the stomach have helped lower stomach cancer in some Asian countries, such screenings traditionally are not performed in the U.S., according to the Times.
Researchers suggested that physicians consider Asians' ethnicity to improve treatment and prevention of cancer and disease. "The group is not homogeneous. Clinicians need to be aware of that and to really extend their scope of attention to cancer due to infectious agents, not just typical chronic conditions," McCracken said (Grady, New York Times, 7/11).
The study is available online.