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May 13, 2015 | 2 minute read

Hispanics, Cancer, and Health

Overall, Hispanic and Latinx individuals living in the US have lower death rates from cancer and other leading causes of death compared to whites, but those Hispanics born in the US have almost double the prevalence of cancer as foreign-born Hispanics, according to a government report released last week.

The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds important health barriers and risk factors that Hispanics face, even as they paradoxically have lower rates of death from many diseases.

Overall, Hispanics are less likely to die than whites for nine of the fifteen leading causes of death, including cancer and heart disease, the two leading causes. This is despite the health-related barriers many face. About four of every ten Hispanics were uninsured. They are more likely to live below the poverty line, not to have completed high school, and 20 times more likely not to speak English as proficiently as compared to whites.

Yet this group as a whole has higher death rates from several diseases, including diabetes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which increase risk of liver cancer. They also have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, both of which increase the risk of common cancers.


And the longer Hispanics lived in the United States, the more their health risk factors and poor outcomes increased. Overall, U.S.-born Hispanics had more risk factors and worse health outcomes than foreign-born Hispanics. Hispanics born in the United States had a greater prevalence of several diseases compared to foreign-born Hispanics, including a 30 percent higher risk of obesity and 93 percent higher risk of cancer.

Almost one of every five people living in the United States is now Hispanic, a group that is estimated to make up 23 percent of the US population by 2030. Using 2013 national survey data, the most recent available, the majority of Hispanics (64 percent) living in the United States come from Mexico. Another 10 percent come from Puerto Rico and Central America each.

There were significant health differences by where Hispanics came from, the report notes, and more data is needed to better understand risks and interventions for this broad population.

SourceKenneth Dominguez et al. Vital Signs: Leading Causes of Death, Prevalence of Diseases and Risk Factors, and Use of Health Services Among Hispanics in the United States – 2009-2013.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 8, 2015 / 64(17);469-478

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