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Latinos and cancer statistics

By James Mejia

There are two kinds of readers of this article – those that have the privilege of taking a quick glance and casting it aside because they haven’t had anyone close deal with the disease, or those that seek hope in statistics and information about the disease and can only picture the face of a loved one battling cancer. Increasingly, members of the Latino community are looking for answers as cancer rates increase.

In our community, 50 percent of men and 33 percent of women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime. For Latino males, 20 percent will end up dying because of cancer and 17 percent of Latino women will die from the disease. In fact, cancer is the most likely way for Latinos to die with 21 percent of all Latino adult death attributed to cancer and 15 percent of all Latino children deaths attributed to the disease. In short, the picture for Latinos is no rosier than for the average U.S. population and in some cases, is worse.

The American Cancer Society has published an extensive report detailing the incidence of cancer amongst Latinos from 2012-2014 and for anyone who has experienced cancer themselves or with family member or loved ones with cancer, the survey is difficult to read.

Cancer and Adult Latino Males

For men, prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease. Colorectal and lung cancer have the second and third highest incidence. Researchers expect nearly 55,000 new cases of cancer to be diagnosed in U.S. Latino males every year. Of the 55,000 new cases, 28 percent - over 15,000 cases – are reported as prostate cancer.
The Good News: Latino males have an incidence rate 13 percent lower than Whites and higher survival rates than Whites once the disease is detected.

The Bad News: The number of prostate cancer cases are certainly underrepresented because of lower rates of testing in the Latino community. The two factors highlighted as most likely leading to the disease are increasing age and family history.[1]

Cancer and Adult Latinas

Almost 60,000 new cases of cancer are predicted to be diagnosed in U.S. Latino women every year. The highest occurrence is in breast cancer, second highest incidence is colorectal cancer, and third is cancer of the thyroid. The American Cancer Society reported that just over 17,000 new cases were anticipated for 2012.

The Good News: The trend in diagnoses of breast cancer is decreasing for women overall and Latino women have a lower rate of incidence – 26 percent lower – than White women. The lowest rates reported are for foreign born Latino women whose incidence is 50 percent lower than native born U.S. Latino women.

The Bad News: Latino women are less likely to be diagnosed at early stages of cancer than their White counterparts. Latinas have lower rates of mammogram screenings and lower rates of returning to the doctor’s office after findings of abnormal results. For these reasons and others, Latinas die from breast cancer at higher rates than White women. [1]

First Generation Immigrants

Some cancers are attributed to infectious agents and are likely to be found in developing countries including Central and South America. Immigrant Latinos have higher incidence with these types of cancer than second and third generation Latinos. They types of cancer in this category include stomach, liver, and uterine cervix cancer. [1]

Children’s Cancer

Cancer is rare in children and less is known about its cause than with adult cancer. Researchers attribute most childhood cancer to radiation exposure, virus and genetic inheritance. Leukemia, brain, and lymphoma are the most common types of cancer in children. The incidence for Latino children is lower than for White children and economic standing is correlated with incidence. As with cancer in adults, early detection and treatment are critical for better health outcomes.[1]

Healthy Habits - Some cancer cannot be avoided. It is the result of hereditary or environmental factors which went undiscovered for too long. However, for some cancers, healthy habits can prevent or mitigate the occurrence of the disease. Healthy eating, not smoking, regular exercise, weight loss and regular medical check-ups are imperative to catch and treat any cancer early.

Take Warning Signs Seriously – Abnormal masses, frequent headaches with vomiting, sudden changes in vision, unexplained weight loss are all warning signs that should be announced to your physician quickly. Ignoring such signs over time could be costly.

Talk About It – The Latino community must cast aside its predilection to keep quiet when diagnosed with cancer. In order to combat the disease effectively, it must be discovered and treated at the earliest possible stages. We must have community conversations around the disease to demystify its occurrence and support those that are living with cancer.

Ask for Help – Though our parents trained us to be independent and not ask for help, especially from strangers, doing so in this case could be the difference between life and death. For those with loved ones treating the disease, you must reach out to ask for help from physicians treating the disease and non-profits specializing in helping families through the disease. In Colorado, we have some of the finest cancer treatment and support facilities in the country but they can only be helpful if you make known your needs.

Get Health Insurance – Health insurance leads to regular checkups leads to early detection = better chance for treatment and survival. With new health plans including Obamacare, even those with pre-existing conditions can obtain health insurance. Now is the time to get covered and see your physician regularly.

[1] Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2012-2014, American Cancer Society 2012





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