Hispanics Have Higher Rate Of Death From Cancer Than From Heart Disease
September 18, 2012

For US Latinos, Cancer Surpasses Heart Disease As Leading Cause of Death

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

New evidence from the American Cancer Society reveals that, even though there is an overall drop in death rates, cancer has become one of the leading causes of death for Hispanics in the U.S. In 2009, a total of 29,935 individuals of Hispanic heritage died of cancer compared to 29,611 deaths from heart disease. In the study, researchers tracked how cancer had surpassed heart disease as the number one disease causing death.

In regards to 2012, the scientists estimated that 112,800 new cases of cancer and 33,200 cancer deaths would be reported. However, for specific groups, cancer rates dropped between 2000 and 2009; in particular, it declined by 1.7 percent for men and 0.3 percent for women. The findings were recently featured in the journal CA: A Cancer Council for Clinicians and Cancer Facts 7 Figures for Hispanics/Latinos for 2012-214.

"We've been so focused on heart disease mortality for so long. ... This may change the way people look at their risk," Robert Anderson, manager of the CDC branch that looks at death statistics, told the Associated Press.

To begin, the study is conducted every three years and includes an analysis of the cancer rate in Latinos with data from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, and other government groups. Based on the findings, Hispanics have the lowest incidence and death rate from breast, prostate, lung and colorectum cancer as compared to non-Hispanic whites. These are the four most common types of cancer in the U.S. In particular, Hispanics have a lower rate of lung cancer as they traditionally have a lower likelihood of smoking cigarettes as compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

However, Hispanics have a higher rate of cancers of the gallbladder, liver, stomach and uterine cervix. This may due to exposure to infectious agents that cause cancer, possible genetic factors and the lower rate of screening for cervical cancer. The researchers stated that incidence and death related to cervical cancer is 50 to 70 percent higher for Hispanic women than non-Hispanic whites. More so, Hispanics discover the cancer at a later stage than non-Hispanic whites.

Furthermore, the team of investigators stated that the cancer issue among Hispanics in the U.S. could be due to varying factors including age distribution, immigration history and socioeconomic status. With regards to age, one in ten Hispanics was found to be age 55 or older during cancer diagnosis, as compared to the rate of one in three non Hispanic-whites. As well, these patients immigrated from locales as diverse as Cuba, Mexico, and Central and South America. Apart from immigration and age factors, in 2010, over one in four percent of Hispanics were found to be living at poverty level and almost one in three did not have health insurance.

Regarding heart disease, scientists believe that new treatments of heart disease have helped lower the death rate related to the disease.

"The overall message is positive," noted Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, an epidemiologist at the University of Nevada unaffiliated with the study, in an article by the Los Angeles Times.

According to researchers from the American Cancer Society, the research is pertinent as Hispanics/Latinos make up the largest and quickest growing demographic group in the U.S. In 2010, they made up approximately 16.3 percent (50.5 million out of 310 million). The scientists believe that methods can be developed to help decrease cancer risk among Hispanics. Some of these options include expanding the use of screenings and vaccines as well as developing interventions to decrease alcohol use, obesity and tobacco use.

"There is substantial heterogeneity within the US Hispanic population. The most effective strategies for reducing the cancer burden in these underserved communities utilize tailored, culturally appropriate interventions, such as patient navigation, to increase access to medical services,” remarked lead author Rebecca Siegel in a prepared statement.