New report: Cancer leading cause of death in US Hispanics


  • Carrie Printz

A report by the American Cancer Society (ACS) indicates that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death among US Hispanics. In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, 29,935 people of Hispanic origin died of cancer and 29,611 died from heart disease. Comparatively, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in non-Hispanic whites and African Americans. The data, which were published in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, have been compiled every 3 years since 2000.2

“There is substantial heterogeneity within the US Hispanic population,” says lead author Rebecca Siegel, MPH. “The most effective strategies for reducing the cancer burden in these underserved communities utilize tailored, culturally appropriate interventions, such as patient navigation, to increase access to medical services.

” In 2012, an estimated 112,800 new cancer cases were diagnosed and 33,200 deaths occurred among US Hispanics. From 2000 to 2009, cancer death rates among Hispanics declined by 2.3% per year in men and 1.4% per year in women, compared with 1.5% and 1.3% per year, respectively, in non-Hispanic whites.

Hispanics have lower incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic whites for all cancers combined and for the 4 most common cancers (breast, prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum). In lung cancer, both rates for Hispanics are approximately one-half those of non- Hispanic whites.

At the same time, Hispanics have higher incidence and mortality rates for cancers of the stomach, liver, uterine cervix, and gallbladder. For example, their incidence and death rates for cervical cancer are 50% to 70% higher than those of non-Hispanic whites, and they are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease for more cancers than non-Hispanic whites. Contributing factors could include greater exposure to cancer-causing agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer, and genetic factors.

Other possible reasons for the differences in the unique cancer burden among US Hispanics are:

  • Only 1 in 10 US Hispanics are aged 55 years and older, the age group in which the majority of cancers are diagnosed;

  • More than 1 in 4 Hispanics in the United States lived in poverty in 2010; and

  • Nearly 1 in 3 Hispanics in the United States do not have medical insurance.