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Cancer Now Top Cause of Death for U.S. Hispanics

Hispanics & Cancer: Perspectives

The new report should not be alarming, says Paulo S. Pinheiro, MD, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"Both incidence and death rates are declining," he says. However, he says "there is always room for improvement."

One key area is screening tests, he says. Screening rates for some cancers (breast, colorectal, and cervical) are lower in Hispanics, the report shows.

"That is very much an access problem," Pinheiro says, such as lack of insurance.

Screening access should be improved, agrees Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, MPH, associate professor of preventive medicine and sociology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

"For many cancers, Hispanic men and women often present themselves at advanced stages of disease where treatment options and survival are limited," she says.

Besides lack of screenings, other factors play in, she says. These include lack of health insurance, high-fat diets, lack of exercise, and lack of treatments that are designed around unique cultural needs.

Hispanics & Cancer: How to Reduce the Risks

"While there are fewer interventions for cancer than heart disease, there are ways that people can reduce their cancer risk," Siegel says.

"Not smoking is No. 1," she says. About 1 in 5 Cuban and Puerto Rican men smoke, according to the report.

Obesity is an issue, especially among Mexican women, Siegel says. It increases the risk for postmenopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and endometrial cancer, she says.

Other steps, says Baezconde-Garbanati, vice-chair of the board off directors for the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, include:

  • Wearing sun block
  • Exercising 30 minutes daily
  • Eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Getting preventive screenings

If language is a barrier, she says, the alliance offers materials in Spanish.

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