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Cancer Control Efforts for Asian Americans Focus on West Coast

Cancer Control Efforts for Asian Americans Focus on West Coast

By Bill Stephens

LOS ANGELES—Efforts to boost cancer screening and education among Asian
Americans and Pacific Islanders are growing. Much of the activity is on the
West Coast, the heart of Asian-American life in the United States and the
main entry point for new immigrants from Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Many feel these efforts are overdue. "Little funding has been put into
Asian-American cancer prevention" said Roshan Bastani, PhD, professor of
public health, associate director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and
Control Research, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. "But now there is
recognition that Asian-American communities are special populations with many
cancer-related health problems."

The urgent need for increased cancer screening and education for Asian
Americans has been somewhat hidden in the past by the "model minority" myth.
In fact, many Asian Americans on the West Coast—especially more recent
immigrants—are at higher risk for cancer because they are poor, have low
education levels, don’t have insurance, don’t speak English, and don’t get
screened for cancer, Dr. Bastani said.

The longer Asian Americans live in the United States, the higher their
risk of developing cancer. One reason is a more sedentary lifestyle. Also,
"by migrating to the US, they’ve abandoned a healthy diet of fruit and
vegetables for fast food," Dr. Bastani said.

Many Asian-American groups have low cancer screening rates, little
knowledge of resources, and vulnerability to various cancers.
"Vietnamese-American women are five times more likely to get cervical cancer
than white women," said Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, PhD, RN, MSN, associate
professor, UCLA School of Public Health. "Japanese-American women have higher
breast cancer rates than women living in Japan. Because many Asian Americans
carry hepatitis B, liver cancer is more common among this group. Colorectal
cancer rates are high for Asians living in America. Because Asian-American
men often smoke, they have high lung cancer rates."

Barriers to Cancer Screening

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