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Hispanics and Cancer: Taking Steps to Reduce Your Risk

Pasadena Citizen, Pasadena
08/25/2011

By Michelina Cairo, M.D., and Henry Mok, M.D.  

According to 2010 census, Hispanics are now the majority minority in Texas, making up 38 percent of the total population. With so many Latinos in the state, it’s important to be aware of potential cancer risks for this group and what they can do to minimize those risks.

The American Cancer Society estimated 47,900 new cancer diagnoses in Hispanic men and 51,000 in Hispanic women in 2009. Hispanics’ most commonly diagnosed cancers are prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women. Other common cancers among Latinos include colorectal and lung. Hispanics have a higher rate of liver and cervical cancer than most other groups.

While many factors can contribute to a cancer diagnosis, Hispanics can do several things to increase their chances of living a long, healthy life.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight 

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colon. In addition to regular exercise, Hispanics can maintain a healthy body weight through a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting intake of red meat, high-fat foods, and alcohol.

Quit Smoking 

Like all smokers, Hispanic smokers can reduce their risk of lung cancer and other smoking related diseases by quitting. Family members can help loved ones quit by participating in fun activities with them to keep them busy and distracted, as well as keeping them accountable and providing encouragement.

Get Regular Screenings and Recommended Vaccines 

Low screening participation rates make Hispanics more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage of the disease when fewer treatment options are available, resulting in poorer outcomes. Screening exams help diagnose cancer at the early stages, when treatment will be the most effective.

Texas Oncology recommends regular clinical screening and/or self-exams for breast, prostate, colorectal, skin, and testicular cancer. With a higher rate of cervical cancer than many other groups, Hispanic women should get regular Pap tests.

Both women and men should consider getting the HPV vaccine because it can help prevent some forms of cancer such as cervical and head and neck.

Protect Yourself from the Sun 

It’s a myth that skin cancer only affects Caucasian men and women and those with lighter skin. Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, and it’s important to practice sun safety outdoors. Both children and adults should choose a sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays and wear a hat with wide brim and sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV absorption. By next summer, sunscreen labels must note whether product provides both UVA and UVB protection.

Find the Right Physician 

In the Hispanic culture, mutual respect and trust are necessary elements in a successful patient-phsician relationship. No matter what the personal risk factors are, finding the right doctor to manage ongoing health is important. Individuals should choose a physician they are comfortable with, who listens to their health concerns, and will help guide their overall well-being. 

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Texas Oncology-Houston Medical Center
Texas Oncology Services