Cancer in Our Communities

Hispanic Americans and Cancer

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, we work with diverse communities to promote healthy habits that can prevent cancer and detect it early, when treatments are most successful. These efforts are especially important in the Hispanic community, which is the largest, youngest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States, according to U.S. census figures.

In general, Hispanic Americans are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to develop and die from various cancers. Hispanic men were 16 percent less likely to have prostate cancer as non-Hispanic white men, and Hispanic women were about one-third less likely to have breast cancer as non-Hispanic white women, according to the latest U.S. government data from 2005.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case, as certain types of cancer tend to strike Hispanic Americans more often. For instance, both Hispanic men and women are twice as likely to have, and to die from, liver cancer, and Hispanic women are twice as likely to have cervical cancer, and 1.5 times more likely to die from cervical cancer as compared to non-Hispanic White women.

Studies by Hutchinson Center and other researchers have found that Hispanic Americans tend not to get screened for common cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancers, as regularly as non-Hispanic whites. The good news is, many of these cancer cases can be prevented or treated with regular screening and early detection.

Hispanic Americans and breast cancer   

Although breast cancer rates are lower in Hispanic women than in other races, breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women. And, compared with non-Hispanic white women, breast cancer is more likely to be caught in Hispanic women when it has reached a more advanced stage and treatments are less successful.

Hispanic women are also about 20 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than non-Hispanic white women diagnosed at a similar age and stage, according to the American Cancer Society. It is believed that these differences exist because of different access to treatment and lower rates of mammograms in the Hispanic community.

What's your personal risk for breast cancer? Use this tool provided by our patient-care partner, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, to find out more.

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Hispanic Americans and prostate cancer   

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men of all races in the United States, including Hispanic men. The prostate cancer rate among Hispanic men, however, was 12 percent lower than in non-Hispanic white men from 2002 to 2006, according to the latest data available from the American Cancer Society. The reasons for these differences are not clear, but lifestyle differences, such as diet, may be important.

Sadly, Hispanic men are more likely to die from prostate cancer than non-Hispanic whites, according to ACS, possibly because Hispanic men are less likely to receive timely, high-quality treatment. Learn more about prostate cancer prevention, symptoms and treatment through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

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Hispanic Americans and cervical cancer   

Hispanic women have about twice the risk of developing cervical cancer, compared with non-Hispanic women. Experts believe the major reason for this difference is that Hispanic women are less likely to get regular Pap tests, which can detect the disease at an early, curable stage.

Our researchers are exploring ways to improve education about the importance of screening. One method they're researching is training Hispanic female cancer survivors to be peer health educators in their communities.

Cervical cancer can typically be stopped if abnormal cells are found early enough. Many studies have shown that regular screening with the Papincolaou (Pap) test is linked with dramatic reductions in cervical-cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly Pap screening for women aged 21 to 30, and screening every two to three years for women over age 30 who have had three normal tests in a row. About 90 percent of women whose cervical cancer was detected by a Pap test will survive.

Learn more about cervical cancer screening and symptoms at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

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Hispanic Americans and colorectal cancer   

Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both Hispanic men and women. The rates among Hispanics in the United States are higher than those among residents of Puerto Rico and Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America, largely because Hispanics living in the United States tend to have poorer dietary habits and get less physical activity, according to the American Cancer Society.

Hutchinson Center research has also found that Hispanics are more likely to have more advanced-stage colon cancer or larger tumors when their disease is discovered than non-Hispanic whites. That may be in part because Hispanics were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have ever received basic colon-cancer screening tests for a variety of reasons, ranging from lack of insurance and the inability to take time off from work to embarrassment, pride and fears about cancer.

Fortunately, colorectal cancer is highly treatable if caught early enough. If you're older than 50 or at risk for colorectal cancer, you should ask your doctor about getting screened—it could save your life. Learn more about your personal risk for colorectal cancer and steps to protect your health at End Colon Cancer Now.

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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.