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Health Status of Asian American and Pacific Islander Women

Breast and Cervical Cancer
Breast cancer is less common in Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women than it is in White or African American women. But, more Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women have breast cancer than do women of Hispanic or American Indian/Alaska Native descent.

The number of Asian American/Pacific Islander women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer has increased. Chinese American and Japanese American women have higher rates of breast cancer than women of their same age in China and Japan.

Among all other populations in the United States, Asian American/Pacific Islander women have the lowest death rate from breast cancer. But, among certain Pacific Islanders, death rates from breast cancer are much higher than among other ethnic groups.

For example, Native Hawaiians have the highest death rate from breast cancer than for any racial/ethnic group in the Unites States. Breast cancer also is the leading cause of death among Filipino women.

In 2003, Asian/Pacific Islander women were 30 percent less likely to have breast cancer as non-Hispanic white women.

In 2003, Asian/Pacific Islander women were 1.2 times as likely to have cervical cancer compared to non-Hispanic white women.

On average, Asian American/Pacific Islander women have much lower rates of Pap test screening than other groups.

Cardiovascular Disease
In the United States in 2002, all cardiovascular diseases combined claimed the lives of 493,623 females while all forms of cancer combined to kill 268,503 females. Breast cancer claimed the lives of 41,514 females; lung cancer claimed 67,542.

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Overall, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women have much lower rates of heart disease than women of other minority groups, but it is still the leading cause of death within their own group.

Heart disease risk and death rates are higher among Native Hawaiians and some Asian Americans (Asian Indians) partly because of higher rates of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which Asian American and Pacific Islander women have high rates.

Over 25 percent of American women have blood cholesterol levels high enough to put them at risk for heart disease.

Among Asian American/Pacific Islander women, high cholesterol rates are highest in Japanese women.

Asian American/Pacific Islander women also have low cholesterol screening rates.

Among Asian American/Pacific Islander women, high blood pressure is more of a problem for Filipino women.

Asian American/Pacific Islander women have much lower blood pressure screening rates than other minority women.

Among Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, the risk of stroke is higher at ages 35-64 than for Whites.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20.8 million Americans—7 percent of the U.S. population—have diabetes, up from 18.2 million in 2003. Nearly a third of these Americans are undiagnosed.

Data on how many cases of diabetes are in the Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian population are limited. Some groups within these populations are at increased risk for diabetes. Guam's death rate from diabetes is five times higher than that of the U.S. mainland. And it is one of the leading causes of death in American Samoa.

In Hawaii, Native Hawaiians have more than twice the rate of diabetes as Whites.

Asians are 20 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes.

In Hawaii, Native Hawaiians are more than 5.7 times as likely as Whites living in Hawaii to die from diabetes.

Filipinos living in Hawaii have more than 3 times the death rate of Whites living in Hawaii.

Asian/Pacific Islanders have lower AIDS rates than non-Hispanic white counterparts and they are less likely to die of HIV/AIDS.

No Asian/Pacific Islander children were diagnosed with AIDS in 2003.

In 2004, Asian/Pacific Islander adults aged 65 years and older were 30% less likely to have ever received the pneumonia shot, compared to non-Hispanic white adults of the same age group.

In 2003, Asian/Pacific Islander children aged 19 to 35 months reached the Healthy People goal for immunizations for Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b), hepatitis B, MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), polio and chicken pox.

Infant Deaths
Understanding infant death is difficult and can bring anger, pain, sadness, and confusion. Causes of infant deaths vary, but could include SIDS, birth defects, pre-term/low birthweight, problems from pregnancy, accidents, or respiratory distress syndrome.

In the United States, prematurity/low birthweight is the second leading cause of all infant deaths (during the first year of life).

In 2003, Among Asian/Pacific Islanders, the infant mortality rate is 4.8 per 1,000 live births.

In 2003, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of infant mortality death for Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Native Hawaiians mothers were more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.

Obesity and Overweight
Obesity is measured with a Body Mass Index—BMI—which shows the relationship of weight to height. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while women with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.

Among Americans ages 20 and older, 134.8 million are overweight or obese—68.6 million are men and 66.2 million are women. Of these, 63.1 million are obese—27.5 million are men and 35.6 million are women.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea (breathing problems while sleeping), osteoarthritis and some cancers.

While all women are at risk for getting osteoporosis, many Asian American women have a higher risk because of their lower bone mass and density and smaller body frames.

They also have a lower intake of calcium compared to other groups of women. As many as 90 percent of Asian Americans are lactose intolerant or cannot easily digest dairy products.

Smoking and Tobacco Use
Smoking increases the risk for a lot of diseases, including cancer, heart attacks, oral diseases and lung problems.

Lung cancer is the largest single cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. For years, men were at higher risk for lung cancer because of their higher smoking rates. However, with the rising number of women who smoke, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer in 1987 as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women.

Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women between the ages of 15-24 have the highest rates of suicide among women in that age group, and AAPI women over 65 have the highest rates of suicide among all races in that age.

Nearly one out of two Asian American/Pacific Islanders will have problems using mental health treatment because they do not speak English or cannot find services that meet their language needs.

Content Last Modified: 4/20/2007 8:37:00 AM
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