Breast cancer rates among Asian Americans on rise

Unlike other ethnic groups, Asian Americans experienced an increase in breast cancer rates over the last 15 years, according to researchers at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC). Breast cancer incidents remained stable or declined in most U.S. populations over the same period.

In the first study to break down statistics by Asian American subgroup, researchers evaluated seven major ethnicities in California, from 1998 through 2013: Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Chinese, South Asians (Indians and Pakistanis) and Southeast Asians (Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong and Thai).

With the exception of Japanese, all other Asian American groups experienced an overall increase, with the largest increase observed among Koreans, South Asians and Southeast Asians.

The groups were from nearly 30 countries, with differing migration patterns, socio-economic status, health behaviors and cultures, factors that can contribute to differences in disease incidence.

Although breast cancer rates in Asian American women as a whole were lower than rates for white women, the rates for Japanese and Filipinas under age 50 were comparable to white women in the same age group.

According to Scarlett Lin Gomez, the lead researcher of the study, “these patterns warrant additional attention to public health prioritization to target disparities in access to care, such as informing the Asian American community and health care providers about these increasing trends.

“In particular, studies should investigate risk factors, perhaps early life exposures underlying the higher rates of breast cancer among young Filipino and Japanese women, with attention to possible genetic susceptibility.”

Korean, Filipino and South Asian women have among the lowest rates of mammography utilization, increasing trends of late-stage disease, according to data from the California Health Interview Survey.

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