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Asian Immigrants More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer than U.S.-born Asians

Philippine News, Posted: Mar 22, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Although Asian Americans have long been portrayed as a "model minority" with few major problems, data released on March 18 in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) reveal that distinct groups of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPI) differ widely in death and disease rates, including from breast cancer and other conditions such as heart disease, and stand to benefit strongly from culturally-appropriate care.

Data show striking disparities. For instance, some Asian immigrant women suffer death rates from breast cancer up to four times as high as their U.S.-born counterparts. Other studies show that culturally-appropriate care would dramatically lower rates of lung, colorectal, cervical and liver cancers among distinct populations. The special issue was supported by Health Through Action, a partnership between Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

"Information, not ignorance, must shape the health care agenda for our populations," said Kathy Lim Ko, president and CEO of APIAHF. "Aggregated data across ethnic groups masks serious health problems. Cancer often goes unrecognized and undertreated. We must move beyond generalities to address the real health needs in diverse communities.

Author Stephen Stafford at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York points out that while Asian American adults as a group are 50 percent less likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white adults, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are about 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease than whites.

"It's time for health data regarding our populations to enter the 21st Century," said U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-California).

Since 2000, the Asian American population has grown by more than 23 percent, making it the fastest growing racial group in the country. In the same time period, the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community, which is almost a million strong, has grown by more than 13 percent. If these rapid growth trends continue, AA and NHPIs are expected to number well over 35 million by 2050. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders trace their heritage to more than 50 countries and to dozens of distinct ethnic groups, speaking a multitude of languages.

"We know that income, education, access to health care, and language barriers all influence health," said Dr. Gail C. Christopher, vice president for programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "Raising awareness of these issues and the lack of data, particularly for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, is instrumental to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's focus on increasing health equity for vulnerable children and families across the country."

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