This study assessed quality of life (QOL) in recently diagnosed breast and prostate cancer patients of European American and Asian Pacific Islanders (specifically, individuals of Filipino, Japanese, and Native Hawaiian ancestry) to investigate whether QOL varied according to ethnicity and the relative importance of ethnicity as a predictor of QOL. Participants were identified through consecutive registrations on the Hawaii Tumor Registry, based on a diagnosis of breast or prostate cancer 4–6 months previously. QOL was measured by the QLQ-C30, a standardized questionnaire widely used in cancer patient populations. Two hundred and twenty-seven individuals participated (101 prostate and 126 breast cancer patients). QOL was similar across ethnic groups in most areas of QOL. However, differences were found in several areas, all in the direction of Filipino patients reporting worse outcomes. Hierarchical stepwise regressions supported the importance of ethnicity, controlling for clinical and demographic predictors. We conclude that additional research is needed to understand the relationship between ethnicity and QOL in cancer survivors. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.