FANS study logo

Study aims to understand lung cancer in non-smoking Asian American women

Research expansion into Sacramento region coincides with Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May


A silent lung cancer is appearing in Asian American women who have never smoked. With  Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is raising awareness about the deadly cancer and promoting a unique opportunity to help research its potential causes.

The cancer center is helping to get the word out about the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Female Asian Never Smoker (FANS) study. It’s being led by researchers from UCSF Health, UC Davis Health and Stanford Medicine and has recently expanded into Sacramento County.

An estimated 57% of Asian American females diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked, compared to about 15% of all other women.

One of the principal investigators in the study is associate director for the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement Moon Chen Jr. He is a leading expert on the cancer burden facing Asian Americans.

“Lung cancer among never-smokers has now emerged as the single most glaring and under-studied cancer health disparity affecting Asian American women,” Chen said. “FANS is a study that looks at a wide range of genetic, behavioral, biological and environmental factors and includes the collection of blood and saliva samples.

FANS is the first, largest and only NIH-funded study to examine this phenomenon. Sacramento County now joins other counties in California with high Asian American populations that are also enrolling participants into the study.

UC Davis recently convened a meeting of thoracic oncology leaders from the four Sacramento County health systems to urge all primary care providers to immediately refer such patients to sub-specialists that take care of these cancers.

face of Asian American man
Lung cancer among never-smokers has now emerged as the single most glaring and under-studied cancer health disparity affecting Asian American women.”Moon Chen, Jr., associate director for the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement

One woman’s story

Amy Tong knows all too well the heartbreak of losing a mother to non-smoker lung cancer. She is volunteering to help promote the FANS study after her mother, Susan Sun Huang, died from non-smoking lung cancer last year.

Asian American family with mother and father posed on the street and in center of photo with daughter to left and son to right of them.
The Huang family shortly after immigrating to Sacramento in 1986

“The news of terminal lung cancer was surprising to everyone in my family,” Tong said. “To learn that my mother was part of an alarming trend of Asian American women who never smoked succumbing to lung cancer, was very disturbing. I am committed to helping stop this cancer from impacting the lives of more Asian American women and their families.”

Tong’s mother and father immigrated to the U.S. from China in 1986 in search of better access to university educations for their children. Tong fulfilled her parents’ dream of obtaining a college degree in America and went on to earn her MBA before beginning a career in public service.

“More participants and their families need to enroll in the FANS study or we will never be able to change the course of this devastating disease,” Tong said.

Who is eligible?

Asian American females who:

  • Recently were diagnosed with lung cancer
  • Never smoked
  • Are between the ages 21-90
  • Live within the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz

Eligible participants also include the spouse, child, sibling, close relative or close friend of someone who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and has passed away.

What is required of participants?

  1. Completion of a survey that takes approximately 45 minutes (via phone, online or by mail)
  2. Collection of a small saliva sample (in the privacy of your own home)
  3. Permission to access lung tissue that was removed during surgery or a biopsy

How do participants benefit?

By participating, you can help researchers understand more about the factors leading to lung cancer in Asian American women, which is also the leading cause of death for this population.

Participants in the study will receive a $75 gift card as a thank you. If you are interested in joining this study, please contact or call 833-326-7883.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit