Moving To U.S. Increases Cancer Risk for Hispanics

U.S. Hispanic Cancer Rate

Moving to the United States increases cancer risk for Hispanics. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine found the cancer risk increases 40 percent or more for Hispanics in the United States.

The results of the study done by Paulo S. Pinheiro, M.D and colleagues are published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. The researchers studied information collected by the Florida Cancer Data System, including data from more than 300,000 cancer cases among Florida residents diagnosed between 1999 and 2001.

Pinheiro and colleagues evaluated the kinds of cancers occurring in each Hispanic population group (Cubans, Puerto Ricans or Mexicans) and compared their risk after moving to the United States. This is the first study to look at Hispanic subpopulations rather than simply considering them as a single ethnic group.

For all cancers combined, risk for most cancers was higher (at least 40 percent) among Hispanics who had moved to the United States compared with those who live in their countries of origin, but as Dr Pinheiro noted “Hispanics are not all the same with regard to their cancer experience.”

The subgroups of Hispanics showed different patterns of cancer once they moved to the United States. For example, Puerto Ricans had the highest cancer rates of all Hispanic subpopulations, while Mexicans had the lowest rates.


Cubans who have moved to the U.S. have a risk of cancer that most closely resembles that of non-Hispanic whites. Cubans and Puerto Ricans seem to acquire higher risk for diet-related cancers, similar to the U.S. non-Hispanic white population, relatively quickly after moving to the U.S.

The researchers found that colorectal cancer risk among Cubans and Mexicans who moved to the United States was more than double that in Cuba and Mexico. They found the same for lung cancer among Mexican and Puerto Rican women in Florida compared to those living in Mexico or Puerto Rico.

The study also noted that Cuban males had higher incidence of tobacco-related cancers; Puerto Rican men had high incidence of liver cancer; and Mexican women had a higher incidence of cervical cancer.

With the Hispanic population in the United States is increasing and expected to triple by the year 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, studies like this will help increase the understand what predisposes different population groups to certain types of cancer.

Patients should become better informed about some of the positive aspects of their original lifestyles and should be strongly discouraged from adopting unfavorable lifestyles that may be more common in the United States, such as unhealthy diets, smoking and alcohol use, according to Pinheiro and Ramirez.

Pinheiro and his team believe additional studies are warranted to assess the variations in cancer risk according to socio-economic status and length of time spent in the United States within each Hispanic population group. “The ideal next step,” said Pinheiro, “would be to evaluate habits that may predispose them to certain cancers.” In addition, more research should focus on these unique populations in relation to other diseases.

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine