Breast Cancer Risk Profile of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers

Institution: Cancer Prevention Institute of California
Investigator(s): Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D. - Peggy Reynolds, Ph.D. -
Award Cycle: 2005 (Cycle 11) Grant #: 11AB-2400A Award: $44,798
Award Type: CRC Pilot Award
Research Priorities
Community Impact of Breast Cancer>Disparities: eliminating the unequal burden of breast cancer

This is a collaboration with: 11AB-2400 -

Final Report (2007)
The nail salon industry has been one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S. California alone has over 35,000 salons with over 300,000 technicians licensed to provide nail care. Nail salon workers routinely handle cosmetic products that contain carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer; yet, little is known about the health of the workers. Additionally, over 80% of California nail salons are run by Vietnamese workers who face socio-cultural barriers that may compromise their understanding of workplace safety and their access to health care. The purpose of this community-research collaborative pilot project was to systematically collect baseline data that would characterize the Vietnamese women currently employed in nail salons in Alameda County, in order to help inform future targeted health interventions and to reduce occupational exposures in this immigrant worker population.

The study consisted of three major elements: 1) We convened a community advisory committee comprised of ten Vietnamese community members (e.g. nail salon workers, clinic patients, cosmetology instructors, and breast cancer survivors) to advise on the focus groups and surveys as well as to provide guidance on issues that affect the Vietnamese nail salon community. 2) We conducted two focus groups, each with ten Vietnamese nail salons workers and stratified by years of U.S. residency (= 5 years versus > 5 years), to identify health concerns and work conditions in nail salons as well as help inform our strategies for effective survey participation. 3) We conducted face-to-face surveys with a convenience sample of 201 Vietnamese nail salon workers at 74 salon shops in Alameda County, to ask about their immigration history, reproductive history, work history, health experience, health concerns, health care utilization and work environment.

Surveys: The more-recent (= 5 years) workers were less satisfied with their profession than the less-recent workers (> 5 years). However, both groups (nearly all are immigrants) reported high levels of concern about chemicals-of-use and acute health effects. Of the workers surveyed, nearly all are immigrants, with a large proportion having lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. Over half of the women surveyed have been working in the nail salon industry for more than five years. Furthermore, a majority of these workers reported that they have experienced some health problem as a result of working in the industry, particularly acute health problems that are likely associated with high-level solvent exposure (e.g. skin and eye irritation, breathing difficulties, headaches and asthma). These health problems are likely to be work-related since symptoms subsided when the workers were away from work for more than one day.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported having some type of health insurance, typically Medi-Cal (45%) although only four workers were covered through work-based coverage. Among women over forty years of age, eighty-nine percent of them reported having been screened (either through a mammography or a clinical breast examination) for breast cancer, most (83%) within the last two years. No significant differences were observed between the less-recent and more-recent immigrant groups or among women with different insurance types.