The Cancer Rise Among Hispanic Americans Varies Widely

A recent report highlights the wide variation in cancer risk within the US Hispanic/Latino population. The report was published by the American Cancer Society and illustrates some of the wide differences in Hispanic Americans when it comes to cancer risk by comparing newly available data from Puerto Rico that has a 99% Hispanic population, with cancer statistics for other US Hispanics. Even though Hispanics have lower rates of cancer as an aggregated group, some Hispanic subgroups have cancer rates that approach or surpass those in non-Hispanic whites. There is a huge diversity rate in cancer occurrence in Hispanics.

This report concludes that men in Puerto Rico have higher prostate and colorectal cancer incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic whites in the continental US, in contrast to US Hispanics as a whole, who have lower rates for these cancers. However, the lung cancer incidence rate in Puerto Rico is one-third that of non-Hispanic whites and two-thirds that of other US Hispanics.

Among the men in Puerto Rico, prostate cancer accounts for the largest proportion of cancer deaths, at approximately1 in 6 cancer deaths. This makes it the only state or territory included in the report in which lung cancer is not the leading cause of cancer death among men of all races combined.

This report also reviews cancer statistics for Hispanics residing within the continental US and Hawaii. The leading cause of death among Hispanics overall is cancer, followed by heart disease. 42,700 cancer deaths were expected in 2018 among Hispanics in the continental US and Hawaii, with lung (16%), liver (12%), and colorectal (11%) cancers expected to cause the most cancer deaths among men and breast (16%), lung (13%), and colorectal (9%) cancers expected to cause the most among women. Among continental Hispanics, lung cancer accounts for 14% of cancer deaths compared to 25% in the overall population, mainly because of lower smoking rates among Hispanics.

The rates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths among Hispanics overall in the continental US are 25% to 30% lower than in non-Hispanic whites. However, rates among some US-born Hispanics have shown to approach those in non-Hispanic whites. The overall Hispanic population in the US is growing rapidly, mainly due to an increase in births, rather than immigration. This fact has led the study authors to predict that the cancer burden among Hispanics will grow too.

One-third of continental Hispanics are foreign-born and they have a cancer risk that largely reflects their country of origin. Hispanics as a group are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with the four most common cancers (prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal) but have a higher risk of certain infection-related cancers (stomach, liver, and cervix), which are more frequent in Latin American countries.

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