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A few nights ago, I was riding the train on my way back home from a New York City trip and I had the chance to read an interesting article explaining the reasons why more Americans are surviving their struggle against cancer, published in the April/May issue of AARP: The Magazine. New drugs, targeted treatments and continuous research have increased the chances of cure and survival.

I was glad to read the good news but I began to wonder if Latinos were being affected by this disease at higher rates. I did some digging and this is what I found:

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), cancer “is the second leading cause [of death] among Hispanics, accounting for 20 percent of deaths overall and 13 percent in children.” Moreover, the probability of developing any type of cancer among Hispanics over the age of 40 increases to 1 in 17 for men and 1in 14 for women (Compared to 1 in 87 and 1in 58 respectively for Hispanics 39 years old and younger) These figures show that we still have a long way ahead on rooting out cancer from our community.

  • “The cancer profile of the Latino population is difficult to characterize because of the diversity of Latino subgroups whose risk behaviors, practices and access to care vary widely,” reports The National Latino Cancer Research Network, an effort funded by the National Cancer Institute. Furthermore, Latinos suffer from low participation on federally-funded clinical trials, scarce preventive health screenings and low literacy about which early symptoms they should be aware off.
  • Both Hispanic men and women are 30 percent less likely to have prostate and breast cancer respectively than their white counterparts. On the other hand, both groups are twice likely to being diagnosed and lose the battle against liver cancer. Hispanic women also suffer high mortality rates dealing with stomach and cervical cancer.

As you can see, our community still has a tough fight against cancer. Statistics may be improving but losing one life to cancer is one too many. I invite everyone to encourage family members, friends and yourself to get a medical check-up and stop pretending that this killer is not going to knock on your door anytime soon. Remember that early diagnosis maybe the difference between life and death.

At AARP, we collaborated with the Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association on crafting a critical report on the necessity of promoting preventive service for adults 50+. Download the report here.

More resources:

  • View the 2012 ACS Cancer Fact & Figures report.
  • Download the ACS “Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2009-2011” report in English and español.
  • Learn more about the Latino community and Cancer on the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s website.

Photo credits: AARP and the American Cancer Society.