Start Caring About Cancer

September 1, 2005

Asian American women have the fastest growing rate of breast cancer in the nation, yet they are some of the least likely to be screened for it.

New statistics from organizations such as the National Cancer Institute may catch Asian Americans off guard since Asian women have historically had the fewest diagnoses and lowest mortality for breast cancer in the world, while women of the U.S. and U.K. have had the highest.

Yet according to the Institute's latest Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Cancer Statistics Review, from 1992 to 2002, Asian American women had the third highest rate of breast cancer of all U.S. ethnic groups.

Low-risk Asian immigrants can acquire the risk of their host country within two generations, according to Cancer Research UK.

A recent American Institute of Nutrition study found that those on “Western diets” are more likely to develop hormone-dependent cancers than those on “typical Asian diets.” However, other researchers have warned that soy studies are inconclusive and have even shown negative health effects.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “a major avoidable cancer risk factor for women in some Asian American groups is inadequate screening for cervical and breast cancer.” Yet Asian Americans have some of the lowest breast cancer screening rates.

In Santa Clara County, only 55.4 percent of Korean women, aged 50 and older, have ever had a breast examination, compared to California's overall rate of 88.4 percent, according to a 2002 survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley and Asian Health Services.

Experts cite language, cultural and socioeconomic barriers for causing low screening rates among Asians. However, resources are available to help Asian American women educate themselves and each other. —Hana Hsu

American Cancer Society's “Tell a Friend” Program:
www.cancer.org

National Asian Women's Health Organization:
www.nawho.org

Northern California Cancer Center:
www.nccc.org

Asian American Cancer Support Network
www.aacsn.org

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Treatment and Prevention:
www.breastcancer.com

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