"Hispanic Paradox" Extends to Lung Cancer

Lung cancer patients who are Hispanic live longer than whites or blacks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Hispanic cancer patients tend to outlive white or black patients with the same disease. This phenomenon is known as "The Hispanic Paradox."

Recent research has shown this to be true even with one of the worst malignancies - lung cancer.

A recent analysis of population data has uncovered that Hispanics diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC - the most common form of the disease) live longer with the disease than other ethnicities.

The study suggests that there may be genetic and/or social or environmental factors that contribute to this advantage.

"Never starting to smoke or quitting is smart self-care."

A team of researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Miller School of Medicine led the research that examined and analyzed patient information from Survival, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database.

Cancer incidence and survival statistics from cancer registries throughout the United States are compiled in the SEER database.

While most research looking at racial and ethnic differences in lung cancer focuses on white and black patients, Ali Saeed, an MD/PhD candidate and Brian Lally, MD at UM, wanted to see how Hispanic lung cancer patients fared.

Researchers identified a total of 172,398 adult patients with NSCLC diagnosed between 1988 and 2009. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 79.1 percent of all patients, blacks accounted for 10.3 percent, and Hispanics made up 10.9 percent. The median age of participants was 67.

During the years of the study, Hispanics had a 15 percent lower risk of dying than white patients. This was true whether or not the Hispanics were born in the United States or not. 

"This is important because it shows that our findings are indicative of the Hispanic population in general and not specific to specific groups of Hispanics," said Saeed.

The study found that black patients were slightly more likely to die than whites.

Hispanics were also more likely than the other groups to be diagnosed with a less serious or life-threatening type of lung cancer called bronchioalveolar carcinoma.

"Our findings will motivate researchers and physicians to understand why Hispanics have more favorable outcomes and may shed light on potential environmental factors and/or genetic factors that can explain our observations," said Saeed. 

The so-called "Hispanic Paradox" shows that Hispanics tend to have better outcomes when diagnosed with certain diseases, despite having decreased access to healthcare resources and higher poverty rates. In addition to NSCLC, the paradox is seen in breast cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Of course, this does not mean that it is safe for people of Hispanic descent to continue to smoke. All smokers should keep trying to quit immediately, or better yet, never start.

This work was published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

No specific funding or financial disclosures were made.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 25, 2012
Last Updated:
April 25, 2012