Cancer Disparities facing Asian Americans

Racism facing Asian Americans is compounding existing cancer inequities. They are the first U.S. population group to experience cancer as the leading cause of death.

Moon Chen, associate director for community outreach and engagement with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the neglect of Asian American cancer inequities stems from multiple factors. They include historical prejudices against Asian Americans and the myth of Asian Americans as the model healthy minority, compounded by language and cultural barriers as well as racism.

“Asian Americans are unique as the first U.S. population to experience cancer as the leading cause of death,” said Chen. “Bigotry against Asian Americans, pervasive since the 19th century, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is only exacerbating the cancer disparities that are costing Asian Americans their lives.“

Asian Americans are also underrepresented in clinical trials. According to the commentary, only 1% of clinical trials emphasize racial and ethnic minority participation as a primary focus. Only 5 such trials focus on Asian Americans as compared with 83 for African Americans and 32 for Hispanics.

“Classifying Black Americans and Hispanic Americans as underrepresented minorities in clinical trials is helpful, but it is regrettable that our national policy excludes designating Asian Americans as underrepresented minorities, as documented by data in this commentary,” said Chen.

Chen cites a disproportionate rate of certain cancers affecting Asian Americans including:

Nasopharyngeal cancers, occurring in the upper part of the throat behind the nose, affecting Chinese Americans at high rates.

Stomach cancers, which have the highest rates among Korean Americans.

Lung cancer among never-smokers that disproportionately affects Asian American women at a rate of more than twice that of non-Hispanic white women.

“It is also important to focus on the impact of racism on cancer disparities and prioritize funding resources. Otherwise, we will not take the necessary steps forward for achieving health equity for Asian Americans,” Chen added.

Source: Science Daily