Assessing cancer beliefs in a Chinese immigrant community

Cancer Control. 2003 Sep-Oct;10(5 Suppl):22-8. doi: 10.1177/107327480301005s04.


Although many studies have focused on cancer screening utilization and attitudes, no study has yet been conducted that examines community beliefs toward a cancer diagnosis and some of the beliefs about cancer and cancer patients. While certain types of cancer have been decreasing in the White population, minority populations are more likely to be diagnosed in a later stage and die of cancer. Stigmas caused by a cancer diagnosis and the disease itself may be a contributing factor in late detection and increased mortality. A telephone survey of 798 Chinese immigrants living in San Francisco was conducted. Subjects were asked several questions with established responses regarding their beliefs about cancer. One quarter of the 798 participants still believe cancer is contagious. Many also believe cancer is caused by environmental as well as personal action such as immoral behavior. A logistic regression model indicated that women who are at a low income level and have resided in the United States for an extended period of time are more likely to believe cancer is contagious. Community stigmas toward cancer and cancer survivors will prevent some Chinese immigrants from seeking early diagnosis. Multimedia education efforts that utilize print, television, and radio may provide a point of entry to reach otherwise unreachable individuals. This concerted education effort may help to dispel some of the myths regarding cancer, its treatment, and prognosis. It is hoped this would encourage a healthy dialogue about cancer, thus increasing screening and early detection among Chinese immigrants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian Americans / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • China / ethnology
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • San Francisco