7 May 2024

Cancer's place in US Pasifika deaths revealed

10:07 am on 7 May 2024
Cancer Treatment generic concept.

Photo: 123RF

A new report from the American Cancer Society says cancer is the second-highest cause of death among Native Hawaiian individuals, and third-highest cause among Guamanian and Samoan people, in the United States.

The Society's report looks at figures for Asian-American, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander People, for 2024-2026.

The term Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (NHPI) refers to people with origins in Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, Tonga and other Pacific Islands in Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

Despite a seven-per-cent lower overall cancer mortality compared to Pakeha, death rates for NHPI are 30 per cent higher for breast cancer and 75 per cent higher for liver cancer.

The death rate is also about 2.5- to 3.3 times higher for cervical, stomach, and uterine corpus cancers.

The most commonly diagnosed cancer in NHPI men is prostate cancer, with the exception of Guamanian men, among whom lung cancer ranks first.

Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer death in men for all NHPI ethnic groups for which there is sufficient data.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women of every Asian-American and NHPI ethnic group, ranging from 17 per cent of all cancers among Hmong women, to 44 per cent among Fijian women.

Uterine corpus cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in US women overall, but ranks second in Samoan women and fourth in Native Hawaiian and Asian-Indian women.

NHPI ethnic groups have lower overall 5-year relative cancer survival compared to Pakeha.

The report said NHPI ethnic groups generally get diagnosed later.

The Society made several recommendations for early detection of cancer in "average risk asymptomatic people", including screening, and added as a footnote: "All individuals should become familiar with the potential benefits, limitations, and harms associated with cancer screening".

The reports also noted that COVID-19 is the leading cause of death among Samoan individuals and the second-leading cause among Vietnamese and Guamanian individuals.

In 2021, the US Census Bureau estimated that approximately 1.7 million NHPI individuals (single or mixed race) lived in the US, making up about 1 percent of the country's population.

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