Breast and cervical cancer screening among Asian American women and Latinas: Does race/ethnicity matter?

Lee, H. Y., Ju, E., Der Vang, P., & Lundquist, M., (2010). Breast and cervical cancer screening among Asian American women and Latinas: Does race/ethnicity matter? Journal of Women’s Health, 19(10), 1877-1884.

Background: Ethnic minorities are frequently considered as one homogeneous group in research, and this trend is particularly true for Asian Americans. This article seeks to uncover the intragroup differences in cancer screening behavior among subgroups of Asian American women by disaggregating them into six subgroups. The subgroups were compared with non-Latina white women to examine differences in breast and cancer screening rates and relevant factors associated with receiving these screenings. 

Methods: Three-year merged data from the 2001, 2003, and 2005 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) were used to investigate the subgroup differences. Samples for the current study were restricted to non-Latina white and Asian American women whose age was ≥18 years (n=58,000) for cervical cancer screening and ≥40 years (n=43,518) for breast cancer screening at the time of the interview. 

Results: Results showed marked differences in cancer screening rates among Asian American subgroups and between cancer types. Cervical cancer screening rates were noticeably higher than breast cancer screening rates in all groups. The Korean group consistently showed the lowest rates of both cancer screenings. Japanese ranked the highest (79.5%) in breast cancer screening but the second lowest (79.7%) in cervical cancer screening. Enabling factors, such as having private health insurance and a usual source of care, were found to be the strongest predictors of receiving both breast and cervical cancer screening. Screenings for both types of cancer increased if a woman was married or was born in the United States. 

Conclusions: The findings of this study illustrate the heterogeneity that exists among Asian American subgroups in their cancer screening behaviors. Further development of culturally relevant and ethnic-specific cancer prevention strategies and policies that address the subgroup differences within the larger racial/ethnic population are needed. Public health outreach and cancer education should be prioritized to the Asian American women who are more recent arrivals in the United States and have minimal access to healthcare. 

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