A new report from American Cancer Society researchers finds that despite declining death rates, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the U.S. In 2009, the most recent year for which actual data are available, 29,935 people of Hispanic origin in the U.S. died of cancer, compared to 29,611 deaths from heart disease. Among non-Hispanic whites and African Americans, heart disease remains the number one cause of death.
The figures come from Cancer Statistics for Hispanics/Latinos 2012, appearing in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and its companion publication, Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos, 2012-2014.
Hispanics/Latinos are the largest and fastest growing major demographic group in the United States, accounting for 16.3% (50.5 million out of 310 million) of the U.S. population in 2010.
Hispanics have lower incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic whites for all cancers combined and for the four most common cancers (breast, prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum). The most notable example is lung cancer, for which rates among Hispanics are about one-half those of non-Hispanic whites. The risk of lung cancer is lower among Hispanics because they have historically been less likely to smoke cigarettes than non-Hispanic whites.
In contrast, Hispanics have higher incidence and mortality rates for cancers of the stomach, liver, uterine cervix, and gallbladder, reflecting greater exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer, and possibly genetic factors. Incidence and death rates for cervical cancer are 50% to 70% higher in Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic whites. In addition, Hispanics are diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease more often than non-Hispanic whites for most cancer sites.