Photograph of Scarlett Lin Gomez

On May 6, 2010, Scarlett Lin Gomez from the Cancer Prevention Institute of California spoke at an event, at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The Forum, entitled "Beyond Reform: Health Concerns and Disparities among America's Fastest Growing Populations," was hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander Health Forum (APIAHF) and the Kellogg Foundation, and addressed health disparities among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. The event launched the American Journal of Public Health's recent special issue, which highlighted the health of Asian and Pacific Islander populations in the United States.

During her address, Dr. Gomez discussed significant findings from two of her recently published papers: "Hidden Breast Cancer Disparities in Asian Women: Disaggregating Incidence Rates by Ethnicity and Migrant Status," and "Disparities in Breast Cancer Survival Among Asian Women by Ethnicity and Immigrant Status: A Population-Based Study." Both studies were based on statewide California SEER data collected from the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program, and the California Cancer Registry.

In her first study, Dr. Gomez and her colleagues examined trends in breast cancer incidence rates among specific Asian populations in California, to determine if disparities existed based upon immigrant status and age. They found that breast cancer rates were higher among U.S.-born Chinese and Filipina women than in foreign-born Chinese and Filipina women. In contrast, U.S. and foreign-born Japanese women had similar breast cancer incidence rates. Additionally, U.S.-born Chinese and Filipinas under the age of 55 also had higher rates of breast cancer than white women of the same age. Overall trends indicated that breast cancer incidence rates have been increasing over time for most groups of Asian women in the U.S. This indicates a need to increase awareness about breast cancer among Asian populations, improve targeted cancer control measures, and fund additional research to identify the factors that are contributing to the surprisingly high rates.

In her second study, Dr. Gomez and her colleagues found that foreign-born Asians were more likely than U.S. born to be diagnosed at advanced stage. Furthermore, survival after breast cancer is poorer among foreign-born Asians, even after adjusting for stage, age, socioeconomic status, and other factors. These findings point to the importance of continuing to increase access to and knowledge about screening, particularly among foreign-born women, and further research to understand the factors contributing to their poorer survival.

For more information about APIAHF, please visit the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health ForumExternal Web Site Policy. For more information on these studies, the citations are:

Gomez SL, Quach T, Horn-Ross PL, Pham JT, Cockburn M, Chang ET, Keegan THM, Glaser SL, Clarke CA. Hidden breast cancer disparities in Asian women: disaggregating incidence rates by ethnicity and migrant status. Am J Public Health. 2010 Apr 1;100 Suppl 1:S125-31. Epub 2010 Feb 10. [PubMed]

Gomez SL, Clarke CA, Shema SJ, Chang ET, Keegan THM, Disparities in breast cancer survival among Asian women by ethnicity and immigrant status: a population-based study. Am J Public Health. 2010 May;100(5):861-9. Epub 2010 Mar 18. [PubMed]