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Report: Cancer Now Leading Cause of Death in U.S. Hispanics

Rates of death from cervical cancer 50% to 70% higher than in non-Hispanic women (Sept. 17)

A new report from the American Cancer Society finds that more Hispanics in the U.S. die from cancer each year than from any other cause. In 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available, 29,935 Hispanic Americans died of cancer compared with 29,611 who died from heart disease. Heart disease was previously the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the U.S., and it remains the leading cause of death among non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans.

The report, Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2012–2014, and an accompanying journal article in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians were released on September 17.

The report estimates that in 2012, 112,800 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 33,200 cancer deaths will occur among Hispanics.

Even though cancer is the leading cause of death in U.S. Hispanics, the rates of new cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths among this group have been declining in recent years, and have been declining faster than among other segments of the population. During the last 10 years of available data (2000–2009), rates of new cancer diagnoses declined by 1.7% per year among men and 0.3% per year among women. That compares with declines of 1.0% among non-Hispanic white men and 0.2% among non-Hispanic white women. Cancer death rates among Hispanics declined by 2.3% per year in men and 1.4% per year in women during that same period, compared with declines of 1.5% among non-Hispanic white men and 1.3% among non-Hispanic white women.

Hispanics have lower rates of new cases and deaths than non-Hispanic whites for all cancers combined and for the four most common cancers (breast, prostate, lung, and colon). For example, lung cancer rates among Hispanics are about half those of non-Hispanic whites, largely because they have historically been less likely to smoke cigarettes than non-Hispanic whites, according to the report.

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 possibly genetic factors. Rates of new cases and deaths for cervical cancer are 50% to 70% higher in Hispanic women compared with non-Hispanic whites. In addition, Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease for most cancer types.

For more information, visit the American Cancer Society Web site.

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