Aggregating Asian American people into a single racial category masks the differences in socioeconomic status and cultural practices that influence their risks for skin cancer. Therefore, a team of researchers conducted a cross-sectional study to better understand health behaviors and outcomes among Asian American subgroups. Their findings were published in JAMA Dermatology.

The researchers pulled data from the National Health Interview Survey from the years 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015. The data were from self-identified Asian Indian, Filipino, Chinese, non-Hispanic White, and other Asian respondents. 

Asian American people were found less likely than White non-Hispanic people to sunburn or tan indoors, but were also less likely to apply sunscreen and undergo total body skin examination. They were more likely to wear long sleeved shirts and clothing that covered their legs to the ankle, and to seek shade.

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But researchers noted differences between subgroups. For example, Asian Indian people were less likely than Chinese people to apply sunscreen or wear a hat, but more likely to wear clothing that completely covered their arms and legs.

The researchers pointed out that combining beliefs of Asian people with Asian American people also may be problematic, as where a participant was raised, degree of acculturation, and generation influenced sun-protective behaviors and attitudes. A preference for lighter skin tones among some Asian American people is a type of discrimination called colorism, and understanding that view is necessary when considering how to approach clinical counseling for Asian American patients.

The results gleaned from this cross-sectional study can be used to identify subgroups of Asian Americans at high risk for skin cancer and develop culturally aware interventions that could help reduce those risks.

This study is limited by the fact that the researchers used self-reported outcomes. Further disaggregated analyses within other Asian American subgroups besides the prespecified groups in the National Health Interview Survey was not possible. Future research that can make use of disaggregated data could be useful.

Disclosures: Some authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Supapannachart KJ, Chen SC, Wang Y, Yeung H. Skin cancer risk factors and screening among Asian American individualsJAMA Dermatol. Published online January 26, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2021.5657