Hispanic individuals are at an increased risk for developing several types of cancer. Let’s examine why such disparities exist and learn steps we can take to help close this critical gap.
For the purpose of this blog post, Hispanic populations encompass all individuals of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and South or Central American culture or origin, regardless of race.
Understanding Cancer Risk Among Hispanic Populations
Although Hispanic populations typically experience lower cancer rates than the non-Hispanic white population, cancer remains the leading cause of death among Hispanic individuals in the United States.1 The National Cancer Institute reports that Hispanics and Latinos have the highest rates for cancers associated with infection, including:
- Liver cancer: Hispanic and Latino individuals’ countries of origin have a higher prevalence of hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver cancer.2
- Stomach cancer: Hispanic and Latino individuals experience a higher prevalence of infection with the bacterium H. pylori, which can contribute to the development of stomach cancer.2
- Cervical Cancer: Hispanic and Latino populations experience a higher prevalence of infection with human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer.2
A report published by Robert W. Haile, et al. titled “A Review of Cancer in U.S. Hispanic Populations,” also notes that Hispanic populations experience the highest incidence of gallbladder cancer in the United States.3 Risk factors for gallbladder cancer include obesity and diabetes, and Hispanic populations have a higher prevalence for both conditions when compared to non-Hispanic white individuals.3
However, a higher incidence of certain cancers among Hispanic populations does not adequately explain why the mortality rate for Hispanic individuals diagnosed with cancer remains significantly higher than for non-Hispanic white individuals. Hispanic individuals diagnosed with liver cancer are twice as likely to die as a result of the disease than non-Hispanic whites, and Hispanic women diagnosed with stomach cancer or cervical cancer are 2.4 times or 20 percent more likely to die from the disease compared to non-Hispanic white women, respectively.1
Social Determinants of Health and Cancer Disparities in Hispanic Populations
A previous blog post published by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), titled “Cancer is Not Equal: National Minority Health Month,” examined the social determinants of health — the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play — and how these factors contribute to health risks and outcomes in certain populations.4 The National Behavioral Health Network explains that access to quality health care for Hispanic populations is often limited due to certain social determinants of health, including:
- Lack of access to culturally appropriate health services, including health care professionals who speak Spanish;
- Lack of health insurance;
- Lower socioeconomic status than non-Hispanic whites; and
- Underutilization of health care services, such as preventative health screenings for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers5
Due to these factors, Hispanic individuals are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to delay or avoid seeking health care. As a result, when cancer is diagnosed in Hispanic patients, it is often at an advanced stage.5
NFCR supports researchers who are dedicated to finding new treatments and cures for ALL cancers and ALL people. To learn more about our ongoing work, please explore our Research Programs webpage. We also encourage Hispanic communities — as well as all other communities — to explore the cancer-fighting lifestyle tips on our website, and begin working together to adopt some of these changes that will help you lead a healthier lifestyle and decrease your risk for developing cancer.
Cancer affects everyone, and we at NFCR will not stop until we defeat cancer together.
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1 Cancer and Hispanic Americans. Office of Minority Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, February 28). Retrieved July 13, 2020, from https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4
2 Examples of Cancer Health Disparities. (n.d.). Retrieved July 13, 2020, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-nci/organization/crchd/about-health-disparities/examples
3 Haile, R., John, E., Levine, A., Cortessis, V., Unger, J., Gonzales, M., et al. (2012, February). A review of cancer in U.S. Hispanic populations. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5815320/
4 Ciupka, B. (2020, April 15). Cancer is Not Equal: National Minority Health Month. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://nfcr.org/blog/cancer-is-not-equal-national-minority-health-month/
5 Moses, T., & Landefeld, R. (2019, September 16). Addressing Behavioral Health and Cancer in Hispanic/Latino Populations. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.bhthechange.org/resources/addressing-behavioral-health-and-cancer-in-hispanic-latino-populations/