Good news, bad news. Good news, heart disease is no longer the number one cause of death in Hispanics and cancer rates are declining. Bad news, According to the American Cancer Society cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in Latinos. The death rates for both cancer and heart disease have been declining but due to improved treatment and prevention, heart disease has fallen faster. Cancer society researchers looked at federal death data from 2009 and found that 29,935 Hispanics died of cancer and 29,611 of heart disease, making it the first year that cancer surpassed heart disease as a leading cause of death in Hispanics.
Nation-wide the prevalence of cancer is slowly decreasing and seems to be decreasing fastest in Hispanics. From 2000 to 2009, the incidence of all cancers combined dropped by an average of 1.7% a year in Hispanic men and .3% in Hispanic women. In comparison, the incidence of cancer in non-Hispanics dropped only 1% in men and .2 % in women. Furthermore, the death rate of all cancers combined among Hispanics decreased by an average of 2.3% a year for men and 1.4% a year for women. Those numbers are lower than non-Hispanics whites, which declined 1.5% in men and 1.3% a year in women during the same period. (Source: WebMD Cancer Health Center)
Hispanics may have lower incidence and death rate of all cancers combined and the most common cancers, which include breast, prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectal cancers. However there are higher incidence and death rates of stomach, liver, uterine cervix, and gallbladder cancers among Hispanics compared to non-Hispanics whites. (Source: Examiner-Dr. Robin Wulffson) Why is that?
According to the lead author of this American Cancer Society study, Rebecca Siegel MPH, the reasoning is due to exposure to cancer-causing infections agents, lower rates of screenings, difference in lifestyle and dietary patterns, and possibly genetic factors.
“While there are fewer interventions for cancer than heart disease, there are ways that people can reduce their cancer risk,” Spiegel says. “Not smoking is No. 1,” she says. About 1 in 5 Cuban and Puerto Rican men smoke, according to the report. She goes on to talk about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. “Obesity is an issue, especially among Mexican women,” Siegel says. Getting preventive screenings is another important factor that is brought up in the steady. According to the report the screening rates for some cancers (breast, colorectal, and cervical) are lower in Hispanics.
Hopefully this shift brings about a change in disease prevention efforts. Living a proactive lifestyle is important when trying to reduce the risk of any disease especially cancer. Cancer screenings are a great way to be proactive. Be sure to talk to your health care provider and to learn more about screening guidelines visit the FirstHealth Cancer Care website. FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital’s FirstHealth Cancer Services offers treatment and support to cancer patients in the Pinehurst, Raeford, Sanford, Lumberton, Laurinburg, Rockingham, and Troy regions of North Carolina and beyond.