Cancer passes heart disease as top killer of Hispanics
Cancer is the leading cause of death among U.S. Hispanics, surpassing heart disease, American Cancer Society researchers report.
And although heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of non-Hispanic whites and African Americans, cancer is expected to assume the top spot within 10 years as prevention and treatment reduce heart disease deaths. Overall, death rates for both illnesses declined between 2000 and 2009.
"The overall message is positive," said Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, an epidemiologist at the University of Nevada not involved with the report, told the Los Angeles Times.
Using the most recent data available, the researchers report that 29,935 Hispanics died of cancer in 2009 and 29,611 from heart disease. Among all Americans in 2009, 599,413 died from heart disease and 567,628 from cancer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Compared with other whites, Hispanics have higher incidences of and mortality rates for cancers of the stomach, liver, uterus, cervix and gallbladder, the cancer society says. For all cancers and for the four most common -- breast, prostate, lung and bronchus and colorectum -- Hispanics have incidence and mortality rates that are lower than other whites.
Hispanic women contract and die from cervical cancer at rates 50% to 70% higher than non-Hispanic whites.
The researchers said that higher rates reflected "greater exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer, and possibly genetic factors," and that Hispanics "are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease more often than non-Hispanic whites for most cancer sites."
Lung cancer rates for Hispanics, however, are about 50% less than other whites, because they are less likely to smoke tobacco.
Here's how the researchers summed up the cancer differences:
Much of the difference in the cancer burden among U.S. Hispanics results from their unique profile in terms of age distribution, socioeconomic status, and immigration history. Just one in ten U.S. Hispanics is 55 years or older, the age group among whom the majority of cancers are diagnosed, compared with almost one in three non-Hispanics. In 2010, more than one in four (26.6%) Hispanics lived in poverty and nearly one in three (30.7%) was uninsured, compared with 9.9% and 11.7%, respectively, of non-Hispanic whites.
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.
The finding appear in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.