By Bill Stephens
LOS ANGELESEfforts 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 Coastespecially more recent immigrantsare 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