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Campus Connection

Cancer and Culture

Taking aim at ethnic disparities in cancer.

Cancer is not an equal-opportunity killer. African Americans are more likely than any other racial group in the United States to develop and die from the disease. Liver cancer kills Chinese American men at five times the rate of whites. And cervical cancer strikes Vietnamese and Hispanic women with alarming frequency.

Addressing such disparities is the challenge facing Moon S. Chen, Jr., who joined UC Davis this summer from Ohio State University in Columbus. As leader of the UC Davis Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Chen will lead campuswide efforts to understand and eliminate the barriers that discourage Latina and Vietnamese women from getting Pap smears, and Asian Americans from getting hepatitis B vaccines. He will explore the reasons African Americans under-enroll in clinical trials, and the factors responsible for American Indians’ high smoking rates.

Culture is at the root of the unequal cancer burden among ethnic populations in this country, according to Chen, a professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at UC Davis. “Culture determines our behavior,” he said, “and our behavior determines our health risk. Beyond genes, 50 percent of all cancers are due to lifestyle factors.”

Chen is uniquely qualified to address culture and cancer. Regarded as one of the nation’s foremost investigators into cancer disparities among ethnic minority groups, he was recently tapped by President Bush to serve a six-year term on the influential National Cancer Advisory Board, which advises the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the director of the National Cancer Institute on national cancer policy. In addition, Chen is principal investigator of the nationwide Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART) program, the largest federally funded special populations network in the United States aimed specifically at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.


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Supporting Cancer Center
UC Davis Cancer CenterUC Davis Health System

Moon S. Chen, Jr. is one of the nation's foremost experts on cancer in ethnic populations.