Report: Cancer Remains Leading Cause of Death Among Hispanic Americans

A new report from the American Cancer Society finds that more Hispanics in the US continue to die from cancer each year than from any other cause. In 2015, 125,900 new cancer cases and 37,800 cancer deaths are expected among Hispanics in the US, making it the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease. The report was published by the American Cancer Society September 16, 2015 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the US, accounting for 17.4% of the population in 2014. Even though cancer is the leading cause of death in US Hispanics, the rates of new cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths among this group have been declining in recent years. During the last 10 years of available data, 2003-2012, rates of new cancer diagnoses declined by 2.4% per year among men and 0.5% per year among women. Cancer death rates among Hispanics declined by 1.5% per year in men and 1.0% per year in women during that same time period.

For all cancers overall, Hispanics have 20% lower rates of new cancer diagnoses and 30% lower death rates than non-Hispanic whites. This is mainly because Hispanics are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with the 4 most common cancer types in the US – breast, prostate, lung, and colon. However, Hispanics have higher rates of new cases and deaths for cancers of the stomach, liver, cervix, and gallbladder, reflecting greater exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer, and cancer risk related to obesity and diabetes. In addition, Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease for most cancer types.

Hispanics in the US are an extremely diverse group because they originate from many different countries. As a result, cancer patterns among Hispanic sub-populations vary substantially. For example, overall, death and incidence rates in Puerto Ricans and Cubans are more similar to those in non-Hispanic whites than in those of Mexicans, who immigrated to the US in large numbers more recently.

“The growth in the population of US residents of Hispanic origin is now driven primarily by births, not immigration, which will probably change the future cancer risk profile of this group,” said Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH, director of surveillance information for the American Cancer Society and lead author of the report. “The second generation, born and raised in the US and more intertwined in our lifestyle, including our diet, has higher cancer rates than first-generation immigrants, so we may see a higher cancer burden in this group in the future.”

Strategies for reducing cancer risk among Hispanics include improving access to screenings and vaccinations, as well as reducing tobacco use, obesity, and alcohol consumption.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Cancer Statistics for Hispanics/Latinos 2015, Published online Sept. 16, 2015 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. First author: Rebecca Siegel, MPH, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.

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