Cancer incidence among Korean-American immigrants in the United States and native Koreans in South Korea

Cancer Control. 2007 Jan;14(1):78-85. doi: 10.1177/107327480701400111.


Background: While previous studies demonstrated contrasting patterns of cancer risk among migrant populations from different ethnic groups in the United States, few studies have focused on the Korean-American population. This study compares cancer incidence rates between Korean-Americans, whites, and blacks in the United States and native Koreans.

Methods: Data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program and International Association for Research on Cancer were used to calculate age-standardized incidence rates among whites, blacks, and Korean Americans in the United States and native Koreans.

Results: The risk of stomach, liver, gallbladder, larynx, and esophageal cancer has sharply declined in Korean-American men compared with their native counterparts while prostate, colon, and rectum cancer risk has increased. In women, stomach, liver, gallbladder, and cervical cancers have declined, and breast, lung, colon, rectum, and endometrial cancers have increased. Cancer rates for stomach, liver, gallbladder, and esophagus are higher in native Koreans compared to US whites. Recently, cancer rates for Korean-American immigrants have increased for prostate, breast, colon, and rectal cancers.

Conclusions: The study provides evidence that the risk of cancers common in Western countries is higher for Korean Americans than for their native counterparts. Recent trends among Korean Americans also revealed a stronger Western profile.

MeSH terms

  • Asian Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Korea / ethnology
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Registries
  • SEER Program
  • United States / epidemiology