Cancer Mortality in Chinese Immigrants to New York City: Comparison with Chinese in Tianjin and with United States-Born Whites

Stellman, Steven D.; Wang, Qing-Sheng

Background. Cancer rates in immigrant populations are frequently found to be intermediate between the country of origin and the adopted country. Such observations play an important role in establishing the environmental origin of cancer. Chinese now constitute the third largest group immigrating to New York City. Methods. Cancer deaths in New York City (1986-90) among 706 male and 412 female foreign-born Chinese were compared using proportional cancer mortality ratios (PCMR) with Chinese who died of cancer in Tianjin, China (19,461 deaths, 1983-87), and with United States born whites in New York City (32,293 deaths). Results. Cancer sites were divided into those for which the age-adjusted PCMR were significantly higher in Tianjin Chinese (TC) compared with New York City whites (NYW), and those for which PCMR were significantly lower in TC compared with NYW. PCMR for Chinese immigrants usually fell between those of TC and NYW, but some were closer to those of TC (e.g., liver, gallbladder, female lung) whereas other sites were closer to those of NYW (e.g., esophagus, colon, rectum). Conclusions. These data provide additional support for the concept that much cancer originates with and can be modified by environmental factors.

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August 21, 2014


From Steven Stellman: This is the first of two studies using NYC death records from my service as Assistant Commissioner in the NYC Dept. of Health. I carried out these studies at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, while on an NIH Fogarty Senior International Fellowship. I was fortunate to work at IARC alongside Dr. Qing-Sheng Wang, then Director of the Tianjin Cancer Registry, who had brought with him Chinese mortality data analogous to my NYC data. The second (1996) study focused on Korean immigrants to NYC. You can find the 1996 study in Academic Commons at ).