FRIDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) — Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese men in California have a cancer death rate three times greater than that of South Asian females living in the state.

In fact, the cancer death rate for California females of Asian origin is one of the lowest in the world, according to a University of California, Davis, study.

The reason? Wide gender differences in Asians' use of tobacco, which suggests that eliminating smoking would result in low cancer death rates among all Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, the researchers said.

The findings suggest that smoking causes many more cancer deaths among these groups of people than previously recognized.

"Among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, non-lung cancer death rates, like lung cancer death rates, correlate very closely with their smoke exposure," Bruce N. Leistikow, associate professor of public health sciences and a leading expert on smoking-related illnesses, said in a prepared statement.

"If all Asian and Pacific Islanders had as little smoke exposure as South Asian females in California, our work suggests that their cancer mortality rates across the board could be as low as that of the South Asian females."

The cancer death rate for South Asian females in California is 58 deaths per 100,000 per year. The rate for the United States as a whole is 193.5 per 100,000 people per year.

The researchers concluded that Korean-American males in California have the highest smoking-related cancer death rate of any of the Asian and Pacific Islander American groups in this study. Seventy-one percent of the Korean men's death rate was linked to smoking, compared to zero percent for South Asian females in California.

The study also identified troubling trends in three groups. Lung cancer deaths among South Asian males in California doubled between 1988 and 2001, and among Filipina and Korean females in California, lung cancer death rates have been increasing four percent to five percent a year.

The findings were published online in the journal Preventive Medicine.

"Based on our work, we can predict that these trends will be accompanied by parallel increases in non-lung cancer deaths," Leistikow said. "Many lives can be saved by strengthening tobacco control measures — cigarette taxes, counter-advertising, smoking bans, linguistically and culturally appropriate smoking prevention measures, and quit-smoking programs."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and tobacco ( ).

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