By Bary Alyssa Johnson (staff@latinospost.com) | First Posted: Sep 17, 2012 04:30 PM EDT

(Photo : flickr.com)

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has released a new report that found that cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States.

Despite overall declining death rates for the population, the study found that in 2009 - the most recent year for which data on the subject is available - 29,935 people of Hispanic origin living in the United States died of cancer, as opposed to 29,611 deaths from heart disease.

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According to the American Cancer Society, Hispanics are the fastest-growing major demographic group in the country, accounting for 16.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010. The new study says that in 2012 an estimated 112,800 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 33,200 cancer-related deaths will occur among Hispanic people living in the U.S.

The study has found that Hispanics have lower incidence and death rates than non-Hispanic Whites for all cancers combined and for the four most common cancers: breast, prostate, lung and colorectum. However, Hispanics have higher incidence of death rates for cancers of the stomach, liver, uterine cervix and gall bladder.

The expert that carried out this most recent ACS study hypothesize that this may be due to great exposure to cancer-causing infectious agents, lower rates of screening for cervical cancer and possibly genetic factors. In addition, the study says that much of the difference in the prevalence of cancer for Hispanics results from their "unique profile" in terms of age distribution, socioeconomic status and immigration history which can impact the amount of people living in poverty and those without access to health insurance.

Since Hispanics in the U.S. are a very diverse population coming from many different countries and areas around the glove, the ACS found that cancer patterns among Hispanics of different backgrounds vary greatly. Although there has not been extensive research done on this issue, there is definitive data available on cancer-related risk factors and prevalence measures on sub-populations of Hispanics in the U.S.

For example, Cuban men are more likely to smoke than Dominican men - 21 percent vs. 6 percent. Also, Mexican and Puerto Rican men are 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with obesity than Dominican men. In terms of preventative screening measure statistics, Mexican women are significantly less likely to have had a recent mammogram than Dominican women - 62 percent vs. 78 percent.

"There is a substantial heterogeneity within the U.S. Hispanic population," Rebecca Siegel, MPH & lead author of the study said in a statement. "The most effective strategies for reducing the cancer burden in these under-served communities utilize tailored, culturally appropriate interventions, such as patient navigation, to increase access to medical services."

The study suggests a number of strategies for reducing cancer risk among Hispanics in the U.S. Among them: increase cancer screenings, increase utilization of available vaccines as well as implement interventions to reduce tobacco use, obesity and alcohol consumption.

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