Recent research into the incidence and mortality rates for some of the most common cancers within several ethnic groups in California reveals marked differences within the ethnic groups.
Although some of the factors affecting the differences within the groups might be genetic, certain cancers seem strongly correlated to lifestyle factors. Examples include the role that diet plays in prostate and stomach cancer; smoking in lung cancer; and screening for early detection in prostate, cervix, colorectal and breast cancer. In addition, soy consumption in the Asian diet may account for some of the differences in breast cancer incidence. Late menarche, low birth rate, increased use of hormone pills, and other reproductive issues are possibly related to the incidence of breast cancer as well. Obesity is more common in Japanese and Filipino women, but still less than in non-Hispanic whites—and may play a role in breast cancer. Factors such as infection in liver (viral and parasitic) and cervical cancer (viral) also play a role.
The following results are based on research done in California for the following ethnic groups: Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, non-Hispanic whites and Vietnamese. The incidence is stated as the number of cases per 100,000 people. The mortality is stated as the death rate due to cancer per 100,000 people in the various ethnic groups.
For males, the incidence of varying cancers differs between ethnic groups as follows:
- Prostate cancer in males has the highest incidence of any cancer. The highest incidence is found in white non-Hispanic males; it is twice the incidence found in Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese populations. The rate for non-white Hispanics is 50% higher than in Filipino and Japanese groups. The mortality rate of prostate cancer is also 50% higher in non-Hispanic whites as it is in all other groups.
- Lung cancer incidence in males is the next highest of any cancer worldwide. Its incidence by ethnic group is about the same in all groups except for the Japanese. Non-Hispanic whites’ mortality risk is the highest; it is heightened by 20% higher over Filipino, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese populations and is 50% higher than in the Japanese group.
- Colon and rectal cancer in males is just slightly less common than lung cancer. It is highest in non-Hispanic whites. It is a third lower in Vietnamese and 20% lower in Chinese and Filipinos. The mortality rate is highest in Japanese. It is 20% lower in all other groups except for Vietnamese, where the mortality rate is half that of Japanese.
- Stomach cancer in males is less than half the incidence of colorectal cancer. It is highest in Koreans, half that in Vietnamese and Japanese, and extremely low in Chinese, Filipinos and non-Hispanic whites. The mortality rates for stomach cancer in males are highest in Koreans, half that in Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese, and very low in non-Hispanic whites and Filipinos.
- The incidence of liver cancer in males is about the same as the incidence of stomach cancer. It is highest in Vietnamese and Koreans, half that in Chinese and a third of that in Filipino, Japanese and non-Hispanic whites. The mortality rate is highest in Koreans and Vietnamese, less so for Chinese and Filipinos, and is even smaller for the Japanese and non-Hispanic whites.
In women, the situation is different:
- The incidence of breast cancer in females is highest in non-Hispanic whites. The incidence for this group is 50% greater than in Japanese and Filipinos, a third greater than in Chinese, and two thirds greater than in Vietnamese and Koreans. The mortality is also 50% greater in non-Hispanic whites as compared to Japanese, is half that in Chinese and Filipinos and is one third as great in Vietnamese and Koreans.
- Lung cancer incidence in women is less than half that of breast cancer. The incidence in non-Hispanic whites is 50% greater than in Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese women. The mortality rate is almost twice as great in non-Hispanic whites as it is in all the other groups.
- Colorectal cancer incidence in women is about the same in all ethnic groups. The incidence is the same as lung cancer, but far lower than breast cancer. The mortality is about the same for all groups except Filipino and Vietnamese women, which are two thirds the rate in the other three.
- Cervix cancer incidence is about the same in all ethnic groups, and far lower than the incidence of breast, lung and colorectal cancer. The mortality is also about the same for all ethnic groups.
- Stomach cancer rates in women are highest in Koreans, but still much lower than the rates of breast, lung and colorectal cancers. The mortality rate is highest in Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese women, and is twice the rate of non-Hispanic, Filipino and Chinese women.
- Liver cancer incidence in women is about the same incidence as seen in cervix cancer (very low) and the same in all ethnic groups. The mortality rate is highest in Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. It is almost twice the incidence as seen in the rest of the ethnic groups.