Author(s): Western Journal of Medicine; Christopher N. H. Jenkins, MA, MPH; Stephen J. McPhee, MD; Joyce Adair Bird, PhD; and Ngoc-The Ha Bonilla, San Francisco

Date Authored: July 1, 1990

Copyright: EthnoMed has been granted permission from the Western Journal of Medicine to place the following article from their journal onto our web site. This material may be protected by Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S. Code). We are grateful to the Western Journal of Medicine for their cooperation and willingness to make this information available to the EthnoMed audience.

Photo of Vietnamese grandmother smoking by Barry Tetchner (cc license).


Although Vietnamese refugees are the fastest-growing Asian minority in the United States, little is known about their health knowledge and practices, especially regarding cancer prevention. To address this problem, we interviewed a randomly selected sample of 215 Vietnamese adults living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Results indicated that 13% had never heard of cancer, 27% did not know that cigarette smoking can cause cancer, and 28% believed that cancer is contagious.

Although hepatitis B-related liver cancer is endemic among Vietnamese, 48% had never heard of hepatitis B. Among men (n = 116), 56% were smokers (versus 32% in the general US population). Male cigarette smoking was significantly associated with incomes below the poverty level (P less than .01), residence in the US for 9 years or less (P less than .05), not knowing that smoking causes cancer (P less than .05), and limited English proficiency (P less than .01). Binge drinking was reported by 35% of men. Young Vietnamese of both sexes reported consuming diets higher in fat and lower in fiber than when they lived in Vietnam. Among eligible women, 32% had never had a Papanicolaou test (versus 9% of US women), 28% had never had a breast examination (versus 16%), and 83% had never had a mammogram (versus 62%). Education about cancer and its risk factors, smoking cessation, and cancer screening are high priorities for this population.

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