Study: Young Asian Women at Greater Risk for Breast Cancer Than Previously Thought


FREMONT, Calif.  —  In a study that shatters accepted notions of breast cancer risk, scientists from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), just announced that some young Asian and Pacific Islander women are at a much higher risk than previously thought.

Historically, breast cancer researchers have grouped together data for Asian and Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. without regard to where they were born, resulting in the appearance that all members of that group have the lowest risk level for breast cancer. Past efforts to study the role of ethnic ancestry and immigration status on breast cancer risk had been hampered by inaccurate or incomplete data on place of birth.

Peggy Reynolds

CPIC’s new study, however, which focused on young women born in California, found that the risks for breast cancer for young Asian and Pacific Islander (API) women are actually higher than those for white women and in the case of young Filipina women, higher than the risk for young black women as well.

“These findings contradict the perception that API women are at a much lower risk of breast cancer than white women,” said CPIC research scientist Dr. Peggy Reynolds. “The majority of prior breast cancer research treated Asians and Pacific Islanders as a homogeneous group and were not able to distinguish between foreign-born and American-born women.

“By linking breast cancer cases diagnosed in California between 1988 and 2004 with individual birth records, we were able to break down the large and diverse Asian and Pacific Islander community into distinct populations based on both ethnic ancestry and nativity, allowing us to examine the data at a level previously not possible.”

According to the scientists involved in the study, this research, while significant, points to the need for further investigation of this issue. Nationally, according to the U.S. Census, the API population is projected to increase to more than five times its current size, reaching 41 million by 2050. These findings could signal a substantial public health concern on the horizon.

The findings from this study were published online June 21 in the journal Ethnicity and Disease. Funding for the study came from the California Breast Cancer Research Program. For more information, go to