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Background | What Is Cancer | Cancer Rates | Asian American Cancer Program
Outreach & Education | Screening Services | Contact AAHI | Cancer Resources


Cancer is a major health concern among Asian Americans because it is one of the leading causes of death. Asian Americans have one of the lowest screening rates when compared with other ethnic groups.
Some of the cancer burdens among Asian Americans are as follows:

  • Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Asian American women, and breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Asian American women.
  • Southeast Asian women have higher invasive cervical cancer incidence rates and lower Pap testing frequencies than most other ethnic groups in the U.S.
  • Cervical cancer is the most prevalent cancer in Vietnamese women, whereas breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer for all other racial and ethnic groups. Vietnamese American women have an incidence rate of cervical cancer that is five times higher than that of Caucasian women.
  • The incidence rates of liver cancer in Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese populations are 1.7 to 11.3 times higher than rates among Caucasians.
  • Korean men experience the highest rate of stomach cancer of all racial/ethnic groups, and a five-fold increased rate of stomach cancer over Caucasian men.
  • Filipinos have the second poorest five-year survival rates for colon and rectal cancers of all U.S. ethnic groups.

What Is Cancer?

Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body. Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.

Sometimes, this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These cells are different from normal cells, instead of dying; they outlive normal cells and continue to form new abnormal cells. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or a tumor.

Tumors can be benign or malignant:

  1. Benign tumors are not cancer:
    • Benign tumors are rarely life-threatening.
    • Generally, benign tumors can be removed. They usually do not grow back.
    • Cells from benign tumors do not invade the tissues around them.
    • Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
  2. Malignant tumors are cancer:
    • Malignant tumors are generally more serious than benign tumors. They may be life-threatening.
    • Malignant tumors often can be removed. But sometimes they grow back.
    • Cells from malignant tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.
    • Cells from malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Cancer cells spread by breaking away from the original tumor and by entering the bloodstream. The cells invade other organs and form new tumors that damage these organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Although there is no cancer prevention that is a hundred percent effective, there are steps that you can take to lessen your risks of getting cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if people adopted cancer prevention measures.

  • Smoking is the most preventive cause of death so by stopping using tobacco in any form significantly reduces your risk of cancer.
  • Sun is the major cause of skin cancer, so when you are out, protect yourself by using sunscreen and by wearing protective clothing.
  • High fat diet can increase your risk of cancer, instead eat a variety of healthy food such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
  • Obesity is a risk factor for breast, colon and prostate, so be active and exercise regularly to help prevent cancer.
  • Certain Viral Infections can lead to cancers that can be prevented through immunizations. Hepatitis B can increase your risk of developing liver cancer and HPV can turn into cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about them.
  • Being idle and not taking preventive measures to protect your health. Regular screening and self examination for certain cancers may not prevent cancer but it can increase your chances of discovering cancer early when treatment is more likely to be successful.

It is important to realise that cancer is not a single disease with a single type of treatment. There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the only group in the U.S. for which cancer is the leading cause of death.

Cancer Fact Sheets



Cancer Rates

The Asian American population has had the greatest increase in the cancer-related death rate from 1980 - 1996 compared to other ethnic groups. (323.6% = women; 276.8% = men)


Cancer is the leading cause of death among Asian American men and women in the United States (1991-1995).

Source: Data Evaluation and Publication Committee of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (1999)


Asian American Cancer Program

To address these cancer burdens, the Asian American Cancer Program (AACP) was formed in January 2002, to increase awareness about targeted cancers by providing culturally competent cancer education and screening services to the Asian American residents in Montgomery County. The AACP is the first health program in Montgomery County to specifically target the Asian American community. The AACP fosters a public awareness that, if properly screened, detected and found early, cancer can be prevented and treated. Working in conjunction with Montgomery County Cancer Crusade, the AACP provides free screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers to eligible Montgomery County Asian American residents.

The goals of the Asian American Cancer Program are as follows:

  • To reduce barriers to screening and early detection by educating the County’s Asian American residents.
  • To improve overall cancer knowledge and screening practices by reducing barriers to screening and early detection.
  • To improve the access of Asian Americans to health care facilities and cancer resources within the County.
  • To provide education, outreach and screening in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.



Outreach and Education

Health fair organized by the Chinese Community in Rockville

The AACP provides comprehensive information on cancer education and prevention to Asian Americans through community partnerships, ethnic media and health promotional events. This information is conveyed using educational materials in many different Asian languages as well as bilingual Asian health promoters. In every education and outreach effort, relevant cultural issues unique to Asian Americans are always considered and respected. To address the diverse needs of Asian Americans, the AACP’s strategies and methods are tailored to specific Asian American subgroups. Some of the outreach methods are as follows: Health Fairs, Health Education Seminars, and Education through ethnic Medias (i.e. print, television and radio).

Media Campaign

Breast Cancer Education at Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Silver Spring

The majority of Asian Americans rely on ethnic media sources instead of mainstream U.S. newspapers, radio and television for information. With this in mind, the AACP regularly launches media campaigns in the community to increase awareness of the importance of cancer screenings. Methods include both printed and broadcast Medias in ethnic newspapers, radios and television stations.

Examples of Ethnic Media (Also available in Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Korean)


Screening Services

The AACP provides free screenings for colorectal, breast and cervical cancers to eligible Asian Americans residing in Montgomery County. These services are free to County residents who are low income and are uninsured or underinsured. Through the AACP’s collaboration with different Asian American health care providers, eligible clients have the opportunity to seek services from a provider who speaks their native language. These partnerships help to eliminate cultural and language barriers.



Eligibility requirement for screenings: Annual Household Income by Family Size
  • Montgomery County residents
  • Uninsured or Underinsured
  • For Breast and Cervical Cancer
    • 40 years and above
  • For Colorectal and Prostate Cancer
    • 50 years and above
  • Income must be at or under 250% of Federal Poverty Guidelines
Family Size 250% of Federal Poverty Guideline
1 $26,000
2 $35,000
3 $44,000
4 $53,000
Each additional person $9,000


Screening Forms:

Colorectal Cancer
Screening Forms


Please mail all completed forms to:

Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
Asian American Health Initiative - Cancer Program
1335 Piccard Dr. (lower level)
Rockville, MD 20850

or Fax to:




For more information on outreach, education and screenings, please contact us.

Cancer Resources

For more information on cancer, please visit the following websites:

American Cancer Society

Cancer Control PLANET

Cancer Information from the National Cancer Institute

Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities

CDC: Minority Cancer Awareness

CDC: Fact Sheet

Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC)