Joe Jackson had a song called “Cancer” on his 1982 Night and Day Album, featuring the lyric “Everything Gives You Cancer.” It seems in this day and age, that truly everything does give you cancer, and if you’re Asian, you’re more likely to get certain types of cancer. AsianWeek recently published some statistics around specific Asian groups and the types of cancer that have a higher incidence in each of those groups.
As a group, Asians have a lower incidence and mortality rates from all cancers combined than all other racial/ethnic groups, but there are certain exceptions. What’s interesting about cancer and how it affects Asian Americans is that it’s very different, based on country of origin.
According to Asianweek, a study of the five largest Asian American groups – Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese — found colorectal cancer rates are highest among Chinese Americans; prostate cancer is more common and more often deadly among Filipino men; and Vietnamese women have the highest incidence and death rates from cervical cancer.
Studies also indicated that for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the annual number of deaths from cancer exceeds that for heart disease, making Asians the only major U.S. racial or ethnic group for which this is true. And if you’re a Vietnamese man, you have the most to worry about. A study in California indicated that Vietnamese men have by far the highest incidence and death rates (54.3 and 35.5 per 100,000, respectively) from liver cancer of all the Asian ethnic groups. Their incidence rate is more than seven times higher than the incidence rate among non-Hispanic White men.
So depending on your country of origin, you may want to make sure you’re getting your yearly medical check-up and be sure to let your doctor know if there’s any family history of cancer. In my case, my family fit the Chinese profile all too well. My dad passed away from colorectal cancer, and in the past year I’ve lost my mom and my uncle to cancer as well. One of the difficulties we had when my mom was diagnosed was finding materials on cancer that she could read. In order to make this easier for Asian Americans, the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), a National Cancer Institute-funded Network, and the American Cancer Society have collaborated to produce a searchable Web portal for Asian language cancer materials. The site serves as a single point of access for cancer education materials translated into more than 12 Asian and Pacific Islander languages.