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Hispanic Health News

STUDY:  Cancer Top Killer of Hispanics Not Heart Disease

STUDY:  Cancer Top Killer of Hispanics Not Heart Disease

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A new report from American Cancer Society researchers finds that despite declining death rates, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the U.S.

Among non-Hispanic whites and African Americans, heart disease remains the number one cause of death.

The figures come from Cancer Statistics for Hispanics/Latinos 2012, appearing in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, which has been produced every three years since 2000.

The report says that in 2012, an estimated 112,800 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 33,200 cancer deaths will occur among Hispanics. Among U.S. Hispanics during the past ten years of available data (2000-2009), cancer incidence rates declined by 1.7% per year among men and 0.3% per year among women.

Hispanics have lower incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic whites for all cancers combined and for the four most common cancers (breast, prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum). The most notable example is lung cancer, for which rates among Hispanics are about one-half those of non-Hispanic whites. The risk of lung cancer is lower among Hispanics because they have historically been less likely to smoke cigarettes than non-Hispanic whites.

In contrast, Hispanics have higher incidence and mortality rates for cancers of the stomach, liver, uterine cervix, and gallbladder, reflecting greater exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer, and possibly genetic factors. Incidence and death rates for cervical cancer are 50% to 70% higher in Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic whites. In addition, Hispanics are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease more often than non-Hispanic whites for most cancer sites.

Hispanics in the U.S. are an extremely diverse group because they originate from many different countries (e.g., Mexico, Central and South America, and Cuba). As a result, cancer patterns among Hispanic subpopulations vary substantially. For example, in Florida the cancer death rate among Cuban men is double that of Mexican men.

Cuban men are much more likely to smoke than Dominican men (21 percent versus 6 percent, respectively) and obesity prevalence among Mexican and Puerto Rican men is double that among Dominican men. There are also differences between Hispanic subgroups in screening utilization; Mexican women are less likely to have had a recent mammogram than Dominican women (62 percent versus 78 percent, respectively).

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