[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Hispanics Get Sicker in U.S.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Hispanics Get Sicker in U.S.

Interesting article in the New York Times and Atlanta Journal Constitution on a study done right here at the University of Miami which indicates that first-generation Hispanics have a greater incidence of developing cancer than their countrymen in their native countries.

From the NY Times:
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.

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.
There's no doubt that the largely sedentary American lifestyle and easy access to fatty fast foods, combined with a high level of stress that many first-generation immigrants who are battling to stay above water have to deal with, could very well be a factor here. But are other factors being overlooked? I found a possible one by doing a simple search on smoking rates by country, and found that Cuba leads the world with 40% according to a Gallup poll back in 2007, compared to the United States' 24%. It's logical to think that first-generation Cuban immigrants are more likely to already have been smokers upon arrival in the U.S., which correlates quite well with the higher lung cancer rate among Hispanics in Florida. Makes you wonder what else they may be missing.

The Times' mention of more aggressive diagnostic methods in the U.S. can't be overstated, either. Also, what are the rates of other diseases in Latin countries such as heart disease and diabetes that claim lives before cancer has a chance to set in? Are they comparable to the United States?


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