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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Study researching lung cancer in non-smoking Asian American females expands to Sacramento

The expansion enables greater inclusivity and opportunity to uncover the mystery behind the disease disparity in this population


By LILLY ACKERMAN — science@theaggie.org 


The Female Asian Never Smoker (FANS) study, led by researchers at UC Davis, UC San Francisco and Stanford University, is expanding from the Bay Area to Sacramento. The study is ongoing and looks to determine factors that contribute to lung cancer in Asian American females who have never smoked. 

The researchers are looking to raise awareness about the burden of lung cancer for Asian American females who have never smoked and encourage volunteers to participate to help understand this complex issue. 

Moon Chen Jr., one of the study’s principal investigators and the associate director for community outreach and engagement at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, said that the most prominent cancer disparity for Asian Americans is lung cancer among females with no smoking history. 

A recent study found that 57% of Asian American females with lung cancer have never smoked — compared to an average of around 15% for all other females with lung cancer. 

“Lung cancer typically is associated with smoking, but for Asian American women, never smoking is the predominant mode,” Chen said. “In fact, the majority of lung cancer cases among Asian Americans are among never-smoking Asian women.”

Chen noted that not only is it unusual that more non-smoking Asian American females are getting lung cancer than those who do smoke, but also that Asian Americans in general are the top U.S. demographic group to experience more predisposed to cancer as the leading cause of death as opposed to heart disease.

The FANS study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is the first and largest study comparing cases of lung cancer in Asian American females who have never smoked with a control population made up of other Asian American females in similar age ranges who don’t have cancer. The study uses questionnaire data, saliva and blood testing from participants.

Iona Cheng, a principal investigator for the study and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, said that previous work in understanding this cancer has used studies from Asia. The FANS study is an opportunity to look at Asian American females specifically to better understand the disease burdening this demographic. 

“This will be the first study conducted in the U.S. of Asian American females, and that is really a unique opportunity for us to evaluate those risk factors that we learned from our studies in Asia,” Cheng said. “[We are] able to investigate them here among Asian American populations, and also identify other risk factors that we think could be candidates to place Asian American women at a higher risk of disease.”

Scarlett Lin Gomez, a principal investigator and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, noted that expanding into the Sacramento area will allow the study to be more inclusive of the variety of ethnicities that make up the Asian American population in California.

“I think that the expansion really provides an important opportunity to be more inclusive of Asian American populations who live in different parts of California,” Gomez said. “We know that the composition of the Asian American population is different in the Bay Area than it is in the Sacramento area.”

Ultimately, the researchers hope to understand what factors lead to this high rate of cancer in Asian American females, and expansion into Sacramento will help enable the study to reach more participants and raise further awareness of this disparity. 

“I’m thrilled because it gives us an opportunity to expand and reap the benefits of this in our population,” Chen said. “It means that we are able to contribute to the knowledge base of what’s involved in understanding this disease.”

The researchers are encouraging all eligible females to volunteer as participants, which will help contribute to the understanding of the enigmatic and devastating burden of lung cancer among never-smoking Asian American females. 


Written by: Lilly Ackerman — science@theaggie.org