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19-09-2012 | Article

Cancer leading cause of death among US Hispanics



medwireNews: Cancer is now the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the USA, slightly edging out heart disease, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports.

In 2009, the most recent year for which mortality figures are available, there were 29,935 deaths attributed to cancer among people of Hispanic background, compared with 29,611 deaths from heart disease, according to a report published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death among African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites, however.

The ACS estimates that in 2012 there will be 112,800 newly diagnosed cancers and 33,200 cancer deaths among US Hispanics.

"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). However, 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, differences in lifestyle and dietary patterns, and possibly genetic factors," write Rebecca Siegel (ACS, Atlanta, Georgia) and colleagues.

In a related study, published in the same journal, Vilma Cokkinides (ACS) and colleagues report on cancer-related risk factors among Hispanics.

They found substantial variations in risk factors by country of origin, such as a higher level of smoking among men from Cuba and Puerto Rico, and a lower level of mammography use among women of Mexican heritage compared with Hispanic women who trace their ancestry to other countries.

Only 13% of Hispanic adults are current smokers, compared with 22% of non-Hispanic Whites, which goes a long way to explaining why lung cancer death rates among Hispanic men in the USA are one-half those of non-Hispanic White men, and rates among Hispanic women are one-third of those among non-Hispanic White women.

Siegel and team note that "acculturation appears to increase smoking rates among female, but not male, Hispanic immigrants."

Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to be obese (32% vs 26%), to have had a mammogram within the last year (6% vs 51%), to have colorectal screening at recommended intervals (47% vs 61%), and to have had a Papanicolaou test within the past 3 years (74% vs 79%), they note.

"Effective strategies for decreasing cancer risk among Hispanics include the use of culturally appropriate lay health advisors and patient navigators, as well as targeted, community-based intervention programs to increase screening and vaccination rates and encourage healthy lifestyle behaviors," Cokkinides et al conclude.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter