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New study finds breast cancer rates increasing among Asian-Americans

Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-03 22:54:47-04

The research focuses on women living in California from seven major Asian ethnicities-- Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, South Asians and Southeast Asians.  Taking a closer look at the breast cancer cases.

"And what this study found was actually when compared to non-Hispanic whites, that the Asian-Americans had a higher incidence of breast cancer over this time frame," said MedStar Franklin Square Breast Surgeon, Dr. Atsuko Okabe.

Fifteen straight years of increasing rates.

For certain groups, the tumors aren't being detected until later stages, and in others, the breast cancer is more aggressive.

However, there is no consensus on why the numbers are spiking.

"I don’t think we know that yet,” Okabe said. “The study helped to focus that this is an issue and I just wonder if it has to do with assimilation into the Western culture, which, you know, results in a significant change in lifestyle, perhaps compared to their native country."

She says it could also have to do with the stigma around breast cancer, and the fact Asian-American women may not talk about their diagnosis.

"I feel like we are not a culture that really talks about our health conditions with other people, you know, we're very private for the most part, I think, and that may have something to do with it," said Okabe.

While more research is needed to understand exactly why the numbers keep going up, physicians say this study is a good wake-up call that Asian-American women need to take seriously.

"I would like to get the message out there for Asian-Americans that they need to be doing breast screenings, which to me includes monthly breast self-exam, getting regular annual mammograms, from my perspective I would recommend starting at age 40, and also getting clinical breast exam, which is examination by your healthcare provider," Okabe said.

Okabe says knowing your family medical history can make a huge difference at the doctor's office. However, with breast cancer, 70 to 80 percent of ladies diagnosed don't have any relatives with the disease.