Friday, August 7, 2009
Hispanics Who Move to U.S. Face Higher Cancer Rates. The New York Times
Hispanics who move to the United States are 40 percent more likely to develop certain cancers than those who remain in their native countries, according to a study from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine that was conducted in Florida, a state with a diverse Hispanic population.
Researchers speculate that one reason for the increase in cancer risk is that immigrants quickly adopt new, less healthy dietary and lifestyle habits, such as increased alcohol consumption, after moving to the United States. It is also possible that some of the increase may be due to more aggressive diagnostic measures in the United States that result in greater cancer detection compared to other countries.
The study analyzed data from the 301,944 cancer cases that were reported to the Florida Cancer Data system between 1999 and 2001. It is being published this week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
Researchers found that after moving to Florida, Cuban-Americans experienced the most dramatic increase in cancer rates, while Mexican-Americans experienced the least. Overall, Puerto Ricans who had moved to Florida had the highest cancer rates, followed by Cuban-Americans, while Mexican-Americans had the lowest.
The differences among the Hispanic groups were somewhat surprising to the researchers. A possible explanation is that “Mexicans in Florida are very recent arrivals. They have had less exposure to the U.S. environment,” said Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, deputy director of the Global Research and Evaluation Center at the university and the study’s lead researcher.
Cubans who had moved to Florida faced the biggest increases in rates of colorectal, endometrial and prostate cancers compared to those who remained in Cuba. These cancers may be influenced in part by diet, the researchers noted.
Men in all the Hispanic subgroups in the United States were also more likely than the men who remained in their native countries to develop tobacco related cancers like lung cancer. The highest incident of lung cancer among Hispanic men in Florida was observed in Cuban-Americans.
Puerto Ricans who had moved to Florida were more likely to develop alcohol related cancers, such as liver cancer. Although Mexican women overall tend to have the highest rates of cervical cancer, Puerto Rican women were the only subgroup that experienced an increase in cervical cancer risks upon arriving in the United States. Further research will be needed to explain why this occurred.
Despite the observed increase in cancer rates, first-generation Hispanics living in Florida still have lower overall cancer rates than whites or blacks in the state. And for two types of cancer, stomach cancer and, in women, liver cancer, rates decreased. Stomach cancer, the researchers noted, is related to methods of fresh food preservation, salting and vitamin C consumption.
“Beneficial behaviors learned from one’s homeland should be preserved,” Dr. Pinheiro said, “and there are some lifestyles in the U.S. that probably should not be adopted.”August 7, 2009
By OLUWANIFEMI MABAYOJE