Cancer Rates of Immigrators on the Rise
February 9, 2010
By David Gutierrez
Cancer rates among Hispanics rise following migration to the United States, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Miami.
“This study is [reminiscent] of studies from the late 1960s that looked at immigrants from China and Japan to the United States,” said Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society. “They raise risk of cancer by immigrating and raise rates for second generation Americans even more so.”
The researchers used data from the Florida cancer registry, International Agency for Research on Cancer, and 2000 U.S. census to compare the rates of various cancers among Hispanics of different national origins both in the United States and in their home countries, as well as rates among non-Hispanics in the United States, between 1999 and 2001. They found that cancer rates among Hispanics living in the United States are approximately 40 percent higher than rates in Latin America, although the specifics vary by national origin and cancer type. For example, rates of colorectal cancer practically double among Puerto Ricans moving to the mainland, while roughly tripling among Mexican and Cuban migrants.
Mexican immigrants had the lowest cancer rates overall, although rates of cancers associated with minorities, such as cervical, stomach and liver cancer, were high. “New Latinos,” which includes Hispanics from Central or South America, the Dominican Republic or Spain, also had high rates of “minority” cancers, as well as high rates of thyroid cancer and low rates of lung cancer.
The researchers attributed the rise in cancer rates among immigrants to the adoption of unhealthy lifestyle patterns prevalent in the United States, particularly dietary changes including a higher consumption of red meat. Lower levels of physical activity and higher tobacco and alcohol consumption are also likely culprits.
“For Hispanic populations, there are beneficial lifestyles associated with their origin that probably should be kept,” said lead author Paulo Pinheiro. “There are lifestyles that may be more prevalent in the United States that probably should be avoided.”