Breast Cancer Rates Are Up Among Asian Americans

Asian American women have experienced steadily increasing breast cancer rates over the past 15 years, according to a study conducted by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California.

The study involved researchers examining breast cancer occurrence trends among women from seven Asian American ethnic groups — Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, South Asians (Asian Indians and Pakistanis), and Southeast Asians (Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong, Thai) — in California from 1988 to 2013.

All Asian Americans groups, with the exception of Japanese, experienced an overall breast cancer rate increase. The largest increase was observed among Koreans, South Asians and Southeast Asians. Rates increased for distant stage disease among Filipinas.

Among women over age 50, increases occurred in all Asian American ethnic groups while for women younger than 50, large increases occurred for Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian groups. Although breast cancer occurence rates in Asian American women as a whole were lower than rates for whites, the rates for Japanese and Filipinas under age 50 were comparable to rates for similarly aged white women.

“These patterns warrant additional attention to public health prioritization to target disparities in access to care, as well as further research in identifying relevant breast cancer risk factors for specific breast cancer subtypes,” Scarlett Lin Gomez, the lead researcher of the study, said in a statement. “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.”

Mammography-use rates in California are slightly lower in Asian American women than in other ethnic groups. Additionally, Korean and South Asian women have the lowest mammography-use rates among Asian Americans.

Researchers conducted this study by using data from the California Cancer Registry. From 1988-2013, researchers identified 45,721 invasive breast cancer cases among Asian Americans. The findings were published in the April issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.