Westernization associated with potentially harmful sun habits among Asian-Americans

May 18, 2009,

Asian Americans who have adopted more aspects of Western culture may be more likely to engage in behaviors that increase sun exposure, thereby endangering their skin health, according to a report in the May issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Skin cancer typically affects individuals of Asian descent at a lower rate than white individuals, but recent data indicates the disease may be increasing in Asian populations, according to background information in the article. "In the medical literature, numerous published studies among Asians report an association between acculturation to a Western diet and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, mellitus and breast cancer. The health consequences of adopting a Western lifestyle are not likely to be limited to dietary changes alone," the authors write. "Although it is difficult to directly compare dietary changes and consequent disease with patterns and subsequent skin disease, we mention this as an intriguing potential parallel because both involve westernization."

Emily Gorell, B.A., and colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif., conducted an online survey of Asian Americans living in California from November 2007 to January 2008. Participants provided information regarding the degree to which they had acculturated along with details on sun exposure, protection and skin cancer-related habits.

Of the 546 individuals (average age 34) who completed the survey, 57.3 percent identified themselves as being of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, 8.2 percent as Korean, 6 percent as Japanese and 12 percent as mixed Asian descent. Those who were more westernized—defined as those whose families had been in the United States for at least a generation, who were raised mostly or only in the United States rather than in Asia or who rated themselves as more acculturated—more often had attitudes and behaviors promoting sun exposure. For instance, these individuals were more likely to report believing a tan is attractive, having a negative attitude toward sunscreen and getting more sun exposure on the weekends.

"Among more westernized Asian Americans, the practice of deliberate sunbathing was widespread," the authors write. A history of laying out in the sun was reported by 60 percent of second-generation or greater Asian Americans (vs. 47 percent of first-generation), 59.1 percent among those raised mostly or exclusively in the United States (vs. 33.7 percent for those raised mostly or exclusively in Asia) and 58 percent of those who rated themselves as bicultural or more westernized (vs. 43.6 percent of those who self-identified as more Asian).

"Although it has generally been accepted as conventional wisdom that Asian cultures prize lighter skin tones and that Western cultures value a 'healthy' tanned appearance, to our knowledge, our study is the first to explore what happens to attitudes and practices of sun exposure when Asians adopt Western culture. Specifically, the adoption of Western culture seems to increase sun exposure, implying negative consequences to skin health," the authors conclude.

"In light of recent evidence pointing to the increasing incidence of skin cancers among Asian populations, as well as delays in diagnosis of skin cancer in part because of a lowered index of suspicion by health care providers and by Asian Americans, dermatologists and other health care providers in the United States should increase their education efforts about sun exposure, sun protection and targeted at this growing minority group."

More information: Arch Dermatol. 2009;145[5]:552-556.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers use a molecular Trojan horse to deliver chemotherapeutic drug to cancer cells

February 23, 2018
A research team at the University of California, Riverside has discovered a way for chemotherapy drug paclitaxel to target migrating, or circulating, cancer cells, which are responsible for the development of tumor metastases.

Lab-grown 'mini tumours' could personalise cancer treatment

February 23, 2018
Testing cancer drugs on miniature replicas of a patient's tumour could help doctors tailor treatment, according to new research.

Study tracks evolutionary transition to destructive cancer

February 23, 2018
Evolution describes how all living forms cope with challenges in their environment, as they struggle to persevere against formidable odds. Mutation and selective pressure—cornerstones of Darwin's theory—are the means ...

An under-the-radar immune cell shows potential in fight against cancer

February 23, 2018
One of the rarest of immune cells, unknown to scientists a decade ago, might prove to be a potent weapon in stopping cancer from spreading in the body, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.