The cancer center’s work to unravel the role racism is playing in cancer health disparities continues. Moon Chen Jr., associate director for the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, recently led a national study examining the significant cancer burden that Asian Americans experience.

Chen was a featured speaker in July 2021 at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Oncology Center of Excellence 2021 conference titled “Conversations on Cancer: Advancing Equity in Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities: Racism and Injustice.”

With assistance from researchers participating in that conference, Chen helped compile findings in a commentary titled “Charting a Path Towards Asian American Cancer Health Equity: A Way Forward,” which was published in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Chen said the neglect of Asian American cancer inequities stems from multiple factors. They include historical prejudices against Asian Americans and the myth of Asian Americans as the model healthy minority, compounded by language and cultural barriers as well as racism.

“Asian Americans are unique as the first U.S. population to experience cancer as the leading cause of death,” said Chen. “Bigotry against Asian Americans, pervasive since the 19th century, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is only exacerbating the cancer disparities that are costing Asian Americans their lives.”

The other authors of the commentary include Richard J. Lee, Massachusetts General Hospital; Ravi A. Madan, National Cancer Institute (NCI); Van Ta Park, UCSF; Scarlett L. Gomez, UCSF; Tracy Sun, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum; and Susan M. Shinagawa, co-founder and past chair, Asian & Pacific Islander National Cancer Survivors Network. The work was supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the NCI.