How Ethnicity Affects Cancer Risk

Cancer was leading cause of death among Hispanics in US

/ Author: 

(RxWiki News) Your ethnicity may be a factor in your cancer risk.

According to a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the US. Lung cancer leads the list of deadliest cancers for this group, with colorectal and liver cancer following close behind.

This report is published every three years. It includes statistics on cancer incidence and death rates for US Hispanics, including recent immigrants and those born and raised in the US.

"The growth in the population of U.S. 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 lead study author Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH, director of surveillance information for the ACS, in a press release. "The second generation, born and raised in the U.S. 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."

Hispanics represent the largest ethnic minority group in the US, accounting for about 17 percent of the total US population in 2014. According to the report, about 26,000 new cancer cases and about 38,000 cancer deaths are expected among this group in 2015.

Lung cancer was the leading cause of death among Hispanic men in 2014, while breast cancer held the top spot for Hispanic women.

Lung cancer death rates were about 70 percent lower among Hispanic women than among white women. This may be because Hispanic women tend to smoke less, with only 8 percent of Hispanic women saying they smoked in 2014, compared to 17 percent of white women.

While colorectal cancer is currently in second position for Hispanic men, liver cancer is expected to claim that spot in the near future. Liver cancer incidence and death rates were about twice as high for both Hispanic men and women as they were for their white counterparts in 2014.

The good news is that overall cancer rates among Hispanic men and women have been decreasing since 1995 for men and 1996 for women.

Overall cancer death rates are also 30 percent lower among Hispanics compared to whites. This is mainly because Hispanics are less likely to be diagnosed with the four most common types of cancer: prostate, breast, lung and colon.

Cancer was found to affect Hispanics differently depending on their country of origin. Cancer incidence and death rates among Puerto Ricans and Cubans, for instance, were more similar to those found among whites.

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment, Hispanics may also be particularly vulnerable because they are less likely than whites to be diagnosed at an early stage. In some cases, socioeconomic status and access to health care contribute to late diagnosis.

Siegel and team recommend targeted interventions to help Hispanics in the US. They also noted that more funding is needed for further research in cancer risk and prevention among this group.

This report was published Sept. 16 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The American Cancer Society funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Last Updated:
September 18, 2015