When cancer statistics are compiled, Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders have typically been grouped together. Research has found that, when separated, the second group faces lower early stage breast cancer survival rates. A new study builds on these findings, showing that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders also have the highest cancer mortality rate among the younger population.
A study recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined cancer death rates between 2018 and 2020, focusing on the racial demographics of those who died. It found that between the ages of 50 and 69, and at 70 and older, the highest mortality rate was among Black patients. However, for younger adults between 20 and 49, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) had the worst mortality figures.
The research also showed that NHPI men had a 39% higher cancer death rate than Asian men, while NHPI women had a rate 73% higher than their Asian counterparts.
Brenda Hernandez, principal investigator at Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry (HTR) and University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researcher, says, “These disparities clearly demonstrate the importance of disaggregation of Asians and NHPIs from one another.”
A news release from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa notes that NHPIs have traditionally had very different cancer burdens in the state, with a 2022 HTR report called Hawaiʻi Cancer at a Glance showing that Native Hawaiian women have higher death rates from breast and lung cancer than Chinese, Filipina, and Japanese women, as well as women from other Asian and white races.
This is something the UH Cancer Center says it’s working to address, including with a new clinical research center, as well as through collaborations with elected officials, the state, healthcare systems, and patient advocacy groups.
UH Cancer Center Director Naoto Ueno says, “Even for clinical trials, if we can determine the genomic and molecular connection between the kind of aggressive disease you have, we can potentially personalize treatment based on racial or ethnic background. There are many different opportunities with pharmaceutical companies and more.”
To read more of the findings from this research, click here.