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The Source: Latino Cancer Rate Expected To Rise 142 Percent In Coming Decades

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  Cancer is the number one killer of Hispanics and Latinos in the United States, surpassing heart disease in 2012. According to Redes En Acción, the National Latino Cancer Research Network, rates of cancer in this community will rise by 142 percent over the next 20 years.

Half of  all Hispanic men and a third of Hispanic women will get cancer.  Additionally, 1 in 5 Hispanic men and 1 in 6 Hispanic women will die from some form of cancer. Prostate cancer is the most likely form of the disease in men, while breast cancer is the leading form in women.

Tellingly, the rate of Hispanic people younger than 50 having cancer, at 26 percent, is more than twice the national average. Both the incidence and the mortality rates have people calling this a crisis. But many questions are, as yet, still unanswered.

The mass categorization of several different cultures, countries and sub-groups, including the large proportion of Hispanics who are foreign-born, into the catchall of "Hispanic" muddies researchers' understanding as well. For instance in Florida, Cuban men--who are  are much more likely to smoke than Mexican men--die at nearly twice the rate from cancer than Mexican men. In a more recent study of Latino women recently found that a genetic variant found predominantly in indigenous populations lowered the incidence of breast cancer by 40 percent.

Disparities in the rates, treatment, and survival rates have researchers asking why. Is it poverty, and the reduced access to medical services? A 2012 Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics and Latinos report stated 31 percent of Hispanics were uninsured. 

What biological markers exist? What role is culture playing in seeking treatment? 

A conference this weekend in San Antonio looks to improve the research to answer questions of disparity in many underserved communities.

Guest:

  • Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of the Institute of Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive