Hispanics and Cancer

Hispanics and Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the #1 cause of death among Hispanics in this nation. (It overtook heart disease as the leading cause in 2012.) 

The other causes of death among Latinos are, in rank order: unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, chronic liver disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, influenza and pneumonia, homicide and nephritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What types of cancer are most prevelant among Latinos? Cancers of the stomach, gallbladder, liver, and cervix lead in rates of high diagnosis and death, which differs from the larger U.S. population. Also, there are differences between sub groups of Hispanics based on country of origin. For instance, Mexicans (63% of Hispanics in U.S.) have lower rates of cancer than Puerto Ricans (9.2%), who have lower rates than Cubans (3.5%). Varying rates of smoking among sub populations may offer an explanation.

Here’s why cancer is more common among Hispanics than the total U.S. population:

>>Low screening rates for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, among others, and so treament must wait until after a delayed diagnosis.

>>Lowest rates of insurance coverage among all ethnic groups, which has a decided impact on our national cancer rates, as there are 50 million Hispanics in the U.S, or almost 15 percent of the population.

>>Greater likelihood of Latinos having inconsistent medical care and a greater likelihood that they rely on an ER for primary care.

>>Language barriers while seeking cancer information and health care. It’s estimated that only 3 percent of registered nurses in the U.S. speak Spanish. Even Hispanic nurses may not be fluent in Spanish.

>>Cultural barriers mean that Latinos may be distrusful of medical professionals and especially fearful of a cancer diagnosis.

All hope is not lost, though. There are programs aiming to help prevent or screen for cancer in the Hispanic population, and to help Latinos with the disease to deal with the associated difficulties of  that diagnosis.

In the next blog post, we’ll cover some reliable, free, and confidential resources for Hispanic cancer patients.

Jebra Turner is a health reporter and former H.R. director, where she oversaw workplace health and safety training programs for staff and clients. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and you can visit her online at www.jebra.com.