Common health problems in selected minority, ethnic, and cultural groups



  • Common sites of cancers among Chinese women are the lungs, breast, colon, stomach, and pancreas. Invasive cancer rates are much higher among Southeast Asian women in general than the majority U.S. population.
  • The rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality for Vietnamese-American women exceed those of any other minority or majority population in this country.
    Common sites of cancers among Chinese men include the liver, colon, stomach, and nasopharynx
  • Newcomers may have hepatitis, intestinal parasites, malaria, and/or Hansen's disease.
  • The most common diseases among Cambodians are tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and intestinal parasites.
  • Lactose intolerance is common among Asians.


  • In the United States, 38% of African-American adults are hypertensive, compared with 29% of European-Americans.
  • African-Americans have a higher incidence of hypertension, sickle cell anemia, and diabetes than the majority population.
  • The combined overweight and obesity rates for African-Americans are higher than for European-Americans: 65% of African-American men and 56.5% of African-American women are overweight or obese.
  • The cardiovascular disease death rate for African-American men and women far exceeds the rate for the majority population and for other ethic groups.
  • The prevalence of diabetes among African-Americans is substantially higher than among the majority population, and the incidence of complications, including lower-limb amputations and end stage renal disease, is double.


  • Diabetes is twice as prevalent among Hispanics as among the majority population.
    Hypertension is common in Hispanic populations.
  • Overweight and obesity are common in some Hispanic groups. For example, combined overweight and obesity are found among 63.9% of Mexican-American men and 65.9% of Mexican-American women.
  • he incidence of cervical cancer in Hispanic women is double that of non-Hispanic European-American women

Eastern Europeans

  • Diseases of the digestive system in men are more common in this population than in the majority population.
  • Smoking and weight may be problems.
  • Eastern European women have higher rates of musculoskeletal complaints than the majority population.
  • Tay-Sachs disease occurs in one in 3,600 infants of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

Native Americans/American Indians/Native Alaskans

  • Native Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives are almost three times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic European-Americans of similar age.
  • Native Alaskan men and women suffer disproportionately higher rates of cancer of the colon and rectum compared with European-Americans.
  • The five-year survival rate for Native American women with cervical cancer is poorer than that for most ethnic groups.
  • Lactose intolerance is common among Native Americans.

Pacific Islanders

  • Native Hawaiians have the highest mortality rates of any U.S. racial or ethnic group for cancers of the breast, lung, ovary, and stomach as well as leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • The mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, and stroke among Hawaiians are higher than that of the total U.S. population
  • Risk factors associated with heart disease, cancer, and stroke are high among Pacific Islanders and include hypertension, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diabetes.

Source: The Provider's Guide to Quality & Culture, a joint project of Management Sciences for Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources & Services Administration, and Bureau of Primary Health Care.

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