Innovations Summer 2023 | Page 3


Until the 2000 U . S . Census , race reporting at the federal level consolidated those of Asian , Native Hawaiian , and Pacific Islander ancestry into a single category . It wasn ’ t until 2018 that this racial breakdown was finally uniformly reflected on death certificates nationwide , which made it possible for researchers to take a closer look at U . S . cancer death rates . Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders ( NHPI ), between the ages of 20 and 49 , experience the highest rates of cancer death among people their age , more than any other racial group in the U . S . The findings were recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute .

These findings nationally validate the work of University of Hawai ‘ i Cancer Center researchers who have reported for decades on the high cancer risk of Native Hawaiians and other ethnicities living in Hawai ‘ i . The Hawai ‘ i Tumor Registry ( HTR ), a part of the National Cancer Institute Surveillance , Epidemiology , and End Results ( SEER ) program , is responsible for cancer surveillance in Hawai ‘ i . Since 1973 , the HTR has continuously collected , analyzed , and reported disaggregated race / ethnicity data of Hawai ‘ i ’ s unique multiethnic population .
“ These disparities clearly demonstrate the importance of disaggregation of Asians and NHPIs from one another as they experience dramatically different cancer burdens ,” said Brenda Hernandez , PhD , MPH , UH Cancer Center researcher and HTR Principal Investigator .
UH Cancer Center researchers have been at the forefront of seminal research on racial and ethnic disparities in cancer . The internationally-renowned Multiethnic Cohort ( MEC ) Study , initiated in the early 1990s , has generated a multitude of studies on racial / ethnic differences in cancer risk , progression , and outcomes . MEC researchers found that the high rates of cancer in Native Hawaiians were due , at least in part , to the stronger effect of smoking and excess weight compared to what was observed in other ethnic groups .
Results point to the need for culturally-based cancer prevention programs , especially among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders . A UH Cancer Center-led project , Kū Ola ( upstanding and principled healthy living ), works to support culturally-grounded programs and services that promote the health and well-being of Native Hawaiian men . “ Kū Ola focuses on the strengths of Hawaiian culture and communities . Our statewide hui kūkākūkā ( discussion sessions ) with Native Hawaiian men provide a vehicle for these men to gather among themselves to support their collective health and well-being ,” said Kevin Cassel , DrPH , UH Cancer Center researcher and Principal Investigator .