Asian Americans (AA) are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States with high proportions of immigrants. Nativity is important as cancer risk factors vary by country. We sought to understand differences in cancer mortality among AAs by nativity (foreign-born vs. U.S.-born).


Ninety-eight thousand eight hundred and twenty-six AA (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese) decedents with cancer-related deaths from U.S. death certificates (2008–2017) were analyzed. Thirteen cancers that contribute significantly to Asian-American cancer mortality were selected and categorized by etiology: tobacco-related, screen-detected, diet-/obesity-related, and infection-related. Ten-year age-adjusted mortality rates [AAMR; 95% confidence interval (CI); per 100,00] and standardized mortality ratios (SMR; 95% CI) using foreign-born as the reference group were calculated.


Overall, foreign-born AAs had higher mortality rates than U.S.-born. Japanese U.S.-born males had the highest tobacco-related mortality rates [foreign-born AAMR: 43.02 (38.72, 47.31); U.S.-born AAMR: 55.38 (53.05, 57.72)]. Screen-detected death rates were higher for foreign-born than U.S.-born, except for among Japanese males [SMR 1.28 (1.21–1.35)]. Diet-/obesity-related AAMRs were higher among females than males and highest among foreign-born females. Foreign-born males and females had higher infection-related AAMRs than U.S.-born; the highest rates were foreign-born males—Korean [AAMR 41.54 (39.54, 43.53)] and Vietnamese [AAMR 41.39 (39.68, 43.09)].


We observed substantial heterogeneity in mortality rates across AA groups and by nativity. Contrary to the Healthy Immigrant Effect, most foreign-born Asians were dying at higher rates than U.S.-born AAs.


Disaggregated analysis of AA cancers, targeted and culturally tailored cancer screening, and treatments for infections among foreign-born Asians is critical for cancer prevention efforts.

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