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Cancer Rates Rising for Korean Americans Due to Knowledge Gap

Posted: Jan 30, 2013

 Simply getting the word out to Korean Americans about cancer screenings may be the most influential way to save lives, Mason researchers say.

Lack of knowledge beats lack of health insurance or fatalistic beliefs when it comes to Korean Americans not making an appointment for a cancer screening, says Kyeung Mi Oh, an assistant professor at Mason’s School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Services.

“Until they have symptoms, they really aren’t concerned,” says Oh, whose recent research has appeared in the American Journal of Health Behavior and the Journal of Health Communication. “They don’t think screening is necessary.”

Cancer is the leading cause of death for Korean Americans and is on the rise — made worse by low screening rates to catch it in the early stages, Oh says. For example, colon cancer rates for Korean Americans jumped by 43 percent for men and 24 percent for women in 1997-2002 compared to 1988-92. Despite these increases, only half of those Oh surveyed knew about colonoscopies, which can catch the cancer before it becomes widespread, while 80 percent of the overall national population knew about colonoscopies.

It’s a personal issue for Oh; her father died from cancer in 2008. “We should educate immigrants about the benefit of screening early for cancer and the problem of not doing it,” she says. “They should be aware of why it is important to have screenings and regular checkups.” Read more here.

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