The pattern of cancer in white and Asian (Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi) children living in the West Midlands Health Authority Region was investigated using age standardised incidence rates. Two sets of rates were calculated, a 10 year rate (1982-91) using survey based estimates of the ethnic population and a four year rate (1989-92) using the ethnic population counts from the 1991 census. The 10 year rates showed a significantly higher annual incidence of cancer in Asian (159.1/million/year) than in white (130.8) children. The pattern of cancers in Asian children was different, with an excess of lymphomas and germ cell tumours, and a deficit of rhabdomyosarcomas. These findings were confirmed by the four year rates. Although underestimation of the Asian population probably contributes to the apparent excess, there remains cause for concern that UK Asian children may be at higher risk of cancer. Accurate ethnic population figures and confirmatory studies are urgently required.
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