Latinos have higher rates of preventable, infection-related cancers

Though Hispanics have 25% to 30% lower overall cancer incidences and deaths than non-Hispanic whites, the higher rates of some cancers are attributed to less health care access.

Although Latinos have overall lower cancer incidences than non-Hispanic whites, they have higher rates of preventable, infection-related cancers, such as two times higher rates of liver and stomach cancers, according to a new report.

Hispanics have 25 percent to 30 percent lower overall cancer incidence and mortality than non-Hispanic whites, according to the study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a flagship journal of the American Cancer Society.

But the higher rates of some cancers can be attributed to less access to care.  The study found cervical cancer, which is preventable through screening and vaccination, is 32 percent higher among Latinas in the 50 states and 78 percent higher in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, compared to non-Hispanic white women.

The report, published every three years, is the most comprehensive review of recent cancer statistics of the U.S. Hispanic population, including Puerto Rico.

There are over 62 million Latinos in the U.S., accounting for 19 percent of the population, and 3.3 million in Puerto Rico. The study estimated 176,000 new cancer cases and 46,000 cancer deaths will occur among Latinos in the continental U.S. and Hawaii this year. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics, followed by heart disease.

The most common causes of cancer deaths among Latino men are lung, colorectal and liver cancers. Among Latinas, the most common are breast, lung and colorectal cancers.

In Puerto Rico, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women and for men, it’s prostate cancer. This reflects the low smoking prevalence on the island, according to the study.

The researchers point out there is still a gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites when it comes to access and regular screenings. According to the study, 49 percent of Hispanics ages 45 and older were up to date with colorectal cancer screening in 2018, compared to 58 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Less access to preventative care and checkups could be part of the reason why there is less prevalence of localized-stage breast cancer among Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic whites, according to the researchers. With less screenings, breast cancer can spread from the localized level and metastasize.

The study, led by American Cancer Society scientist Kimberly Miller, indicated that the prevalence among Latinos could be reduced by increasing access to high-quality prevention, early detection and treatment services.

Out of all racial groups, Latinos have the highest percentage of uninsured people, nearly three times more than non-Hispanic whites. Nearly half of the population in Puerto Rico receive health insurance through Medicaid, which is substantially underfunded in the U.S. territory.

The strategies to decrease cancers among Latinos include the use of culturally appropriate health advisers and patient navigators, as well as community-based intervention programs to facilitate access to screening and promote healthy behaviors.

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