Annual Report 2021 | Page 7



Established in 1993 , the Multiethnic Cohort ( MEC ) Study is the most ethnically-diverse cohort study in the world . The MEC is a collaboration between the UH Cancer Center and the University of Southern California , and the cohort of 215,000 participants are primarily Native Hawaiians , Japanese , Whites , Latinos , and African Americans .
Findings from the MEC ’ s numerous world-renown cancer studies have provided data relevant not only to Hawai ‘ i but also other states and countries . The MEC study has examined the role of alcohol , diet quality , body fat distribution and physical activity in determining a person ’ s risk for cancer .
The UH Cancer Center ’ s epidemiology program was one of the first to focus on the role of diet in the causation of cancer , taking advantage of the variety of ethnic foods in Hawai ‘ i . Its studies on Japanese immigrants to Hawai ‘ i provided some of the most convincing data on the changing cancer rates among different generations of immigrants .
The MEC Study revealed that obesity has overtaken viral hepatitis as a major cause of chronic liver disease in Hawai ‘ i ’ s population , and the risk of lung cancer among Native Hawaiians matched that of African-Americans , indicating a 50 % increase compared to Whites .
UH Cancer Center researchers were among the first to investigate the health effects of electronic cigarette use . Working with Hawai ‘ i high schools , they uncovered a growing public health concern about the relationship between use of e-cigarettes by Hawai ‘ i ’ s youth to initiation of cigarette smoking and incidence of respiratory diseases , like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD ).
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Guam , UH Cancer Center researchers also developed the first cessation program for areca ( betel ) nut use , demonstrating the program ’ s effectiveness in a clinical trial . Worldwide , about 600 million people use betel nut for cultural and recreational purposes , and use is particularly widespread throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific , including Guam . Research has shown the devastating effects of its use , which include cancers of the oral cavity .
Prevention and control researchers have studied the effect of hula on the physical fitness and psychosocial well-being of breast cancer survivors . They have explored culturally sensitive approaches to increase colorectal cancer screening rates among Native Hawaiian men with the aim of reducing the disproportionately high rate of cancer deaths in this group .