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Abstract

Haiti exemplifies all of the problems of developing countries: poverty, hunger, reduced longevity, and an illiteracy rate of more than 75%. It is, therefore, not surprising that so little attention has been given to late-onset chronic diseases, particularly cancer. The results of a special survey of cancer cases first diagnosed in 1979–84 are presented, with relative proportions of cancers by site, according to age, sex and geographical area of origin (coastal vs. mountain). The major cancers recorded were: stomach and intestine, primary hepatic (especially in males), cervix, penis, and Kaposi's sarcoma (KS). There were 18 cases of KS, all of which occurred among AIDS patients. Among males, hepatic cancers accounted for a significantly larger percentage of cancer cases in the mountain vs. coastal origin group, while the reverse was true for penile cancer and KS. These preliminary data on cancer in Haiti are discussed with particular reference to dietary factors (for cancers of stomach, intestine, liver and cervix). The clarification and confirmation of these possible relationships between diet and cancer should provide an opportunity to elucidate environmental factors as causes of cancer.