ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland Research Team Identifies Asian American Misconceptions That Deter Colorectal Cancer Screening

“CRC (colorectal cancer) is something that Western people often get due to their meat-heavy dietary style. Since my diet is almost vegetable based, I don’t think I will get CRC,” stated a Chinese participant in a recently published article by Dr. Sunmin Lee and her research team from the University of Maryland School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. This study is one of the first to use a mixed methods approach, consisting of key informant interviews, focus groups, and surveys, to examine awareness, knowledge, misconceptions and CRC screening behavior among Chinese and Korean Americans.

[Photo: Dr. Sunmin Lee]

This misconception of having low CRC susceptibly among Chinese and Korean Americans is particularly concerning given that screening among Asian Americans remains low despite strong evidence that screening can prevent and detect CRC early.

One hundred twenty Chinese and Korean Americans, aged 50 and older, in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area participated in focus group discussions, and 17 physicians, community leaders and patient navigators took part in key informant interviews. One community leader said that the “majority [of Chinese and Korean Americans] have heard of cancer, but very few know of colon cancer. Most of them do not know the screening guidelines.” Survey data revealed that more than half of focus group participants did not know that CRC screening begins at age 50 and that there are different types of screening available.

In addition, focus group participants repeatedly stated that they only seek medical care when they present symptoms as supported by survey data, which found that more than 30% of participants believe that CRC screening is not necessary if they do not have any symptoms, and since there is nothing they can do to prevent CRC. Focus group findings suggested that this lack of knowledge may be a result of limited and insufficient sources of linguistically and culturally tailored health information.

Further education in these communities is critical considering that participants who had higher knowledge scores were more likely to report greater CRC screening awareness, confidence in their ability to get screening, and receipt of screening. This study’s findings may be used to inform the development of linguistically and culturally appropriate interventions that address these knowledge gaps and misconceptions among Chinese and Korean Americans.

The study, “Is colorectal cancer a western disease? Role of knowledge and influence of misconception on colorectal cancer screening among Chinese and Korean Americans: A mixed methods study,” is published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention: