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Facts and resources for AAPI Heritage Month

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AAPI breast cancer

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time dedicated to celebrating the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islander people in the United States. This month, we want to highlight how breast cancer affects this population, as well as provide resources for these patients. AAPI women have the lowest rates of breast cancer incidence and mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S., but this fact has led to the misconception that these women are not at risk. However, specific factors affect AAPI women’s risk of breast cancer, and they are important to be aware of.

How breast cancer affects AAPI women

Breast density, like all breast cancer risk factors, should inform individualized screening recommendations for women. According to research, women of Asian descent have denser breast tissue on average. This also contributes to their risk of developing breast cancer peaking between the ages of 40-50, ten years younger white women. While the risk of early breast cancer and dense breast tissue should inform screening practices, AAPI women have some of the lowest screening rates of any population.

Studies show that immigration status affects breast cancer risk in AAPI women, as there are higher rates of breast cancer among these women living in the U.S. compared to those living in Asian countries. Research suggests that this increased risk is due in part to the adoption of Western lifestyle and diet.

Resources for AAPI patients

Breast cancer affects the AAPI community in unique ways, which presents challenges for these patients. Luckily, there are organizations that exist to support AAPI cancer patients.

  • The National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative is a non-profit organization that works to address the difficulties that AAPI women with breast cancer face by challenging the misconception that “Asian women don’t get breast cancer.” The initiative advocates for Asian breast cancer policy changes and best practices through their annual U.S. Asian breast cancer awareness campaign.
  • The Pink Pashmina Project by the Asian Health Coalition is dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer among AAPI communities in the greater Chicago area, as well as connecting these patients to screening and care resources to help address health disparities.   
  • The Asian Breast Health Outreach Project is specifically for AAPI women living around the Dallas, TX area and surrounding communities. The goal of this nonprofit is to educate the Asian community about the importance of early detection and tackle systemic barriers that keep them from routine screenings. Among other things, this organization offers mammogram screening services with staff who can speak to patients in their preferred language.

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