How to Get Cancer: Move to the United States

The risk of cancer for Hispanics living in Florida is 40 percent higher than for those who live in their native countries, a puzzling new study finds.

The finding holds even after researchers corrected for the increase detection rates in the United States. And access to health care did not make things better.

"This suggests that changes in their environment and lifestyles make them more prone to develop cancer," said Dr. Paulo S. Pinheiro, a researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The results are detailed in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Cancers of the colon and rectum among Cubans and Mexicans who moved to the United States was more than double that in Cuba and Mexico. Lung cancer among Mexican and Puerto Rican women living in Florida was also double the rates in their countries of origin.

Other cancer rates that were higher in the states:

  • Tobacco-related cancers among Cuban men.
  • Liver cancer among Puerto Rican men.
  • Cervical cancer among Mexican women.

The findings also show that different ethnic groups face different risks.

"Don't assume that all Hispanics are the same," said Amelie G. Ramirez, director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research. "Physicians should probe Hispanic patients more on their background and family history to identify any problematic behaviors that could contribute to health problems."

The causes of cancer are myriad, from inherited propensities to viruses to a range of environmental factors and lifestyle choices.

Ramirez, who was not involved in the research, notes that nearly one in every three U.S. residents will be Hispanic by 2050.

In a statement from the American Association for Cancer Research, Ramirez and Pinheiro both suggest Hispanics avoid adopting unhealthy lifestyles that may be more common in the United States, such as smoking, drinking and bad diets.

Live Science Staff
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