Cancer in Our Communities

Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders and Cancer

Cancer doesn't affect every racial and ethnic group in the same way, and Asian/Pacific Islander Americans face unique issues.

Overall, there are fewer cases of cancer in Asian/Pacific Islander men and women than in most other races. Asian/Pacific Islanders are also less likely to die from the disease than are members of other races, according to the latest U.S. government statistics from 2001 to 2005.

Within the Asian American population as a whole, cancer affects people of different national origins differently. Certain cancers, however, strike Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders far more often than other races, as we discuss below.

At Fred Hutch, we work with diverse communities to improve their understanding of unique health issues and to promote healthy habits that can prevent cancer and detect it early, when treatments are most successful.

One way that our researchers address health differences in Asian/Pacific Islander Americans is through participating in the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training, a national project. In the Seattle region, this project focuses on community development and health education primarily in the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities but also includes other Asian communities.

Asian Americans and cervical cancer    

Vietnamese women have higher rates of cervical cancer than any other racial or ethnic group (including Hispanics), according to U.S. cancer-registry data. Many experts believe this is the case because Asian American women tend to have much lower rates of cervical cancer screening than other racial and ethnic groups. Our researchers have found that, at least in Seattle communities, cultural beliefs contribute to these lower screening rates.

The good news is, cervical cancer can be treated if abnormal cells are found early enough. Many studies have shown that regular screening with the Papincolaou (Pap) test is linked with dramatic reductions in cervical-cancer deaths. Our researchers are working on ways to improve education about the need for these screenings in high-risk communities.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly Pap screening for women aged 21 to 30, and screening every two to three years for women over age 30 who have had three normal tests in a row. About 90 percent of women whose cervical cancer was detected by a Pap test will survive. Learn more about cervical cancer screening and symptoms at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

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Asian Americans and liver cancer    

The medical world still isn't sure exactly what causes liver cancer, but one thing is clear: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest incidence of liver cancer of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

According to studies by the National Cancer Institute, liver cancer strikes Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese populations at rates that range from 1.7 to 11.3 times higher than those among Caucasian Americans. The highest percentage of cases occurs in Vietnamese Americans; Vietnamese men have the highest rates of liver cancer of any racial and ethnic group in the United States.

As with so many cancers, early detection and treatment are important in fighting liver cancer. Learn more about liver cancer symptoms and treatment options at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

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