High cancer mortality for US-born Latinos: Evidence from California and Texas

Paulo S. Pinheiro, Karen E. Callahan, Scarlett Lin Gomez, Rafael Marcos-Gragera, Taylor R. Cobb, Aina Roca-Barcelo, Amelie G. Ramirez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Latinos born in the US, 36 million, comprise 65% of all US Latinos. Yet their cancer experience is nearly always analyzed together with their foreign-born counterparts, 19 million, who constitute a steady influx of truly lower-risk populations from abroad. To highlight specific cancer vulnerabilities for US-born Latinos, we compare their cancer mortality to the majority non-Latino white (NLW) population, foreign-born Latinos, and non-Latino blacks. Methods: We analyzed 465,751 cancer deaths from 2008 to 2012 occurring among residents of California and Texas, the two most populous states, accounting for 47% of US Latinos. This cross-sectional analysis, based on granular data obtained from death certificates on cause of death, age, race, ethnicity and birthplace, makes use of normal standardization techniques and negative binomial regression models. Results: While Latinos overall have lower all-cancers-combined mortality rates than NLWs, these numbers were largely driven by low rates among the foreign born while mortality rates for US-born Latinos approach those of NLWs. Among Texas males, rates were 210 per 100,000 for NLWs and 166 for Latinos combined, but 201 per 100,000 for US-born Latinos and 125 for foreign-born Latinos. Compared to NLWs, US-born Latino males in California had mortality rate ratios of 2.83 (95% CI: 2.52-3.18) for liver cancer, 1.44 (95% CI: 1.30-1.61) for kidney cancer, and 1.25 (95% CI: 1.17-1.34) for colorectal cancer (CRC). Texas results showed a similar site-specific pattern. Conclusions: Specific cancer patterns for US-born Latinos, who have relatively high cancer mortality, similar overall to NLWs, are masked by aggregation of all Latinos, US-born and foreign-born. While NLWs had high mortality for lung cancer, US-born Latinos had high mortality for liver, kidney and male colorectal cancers. HCV testing and reinforcement of the need for CRC screening should be a priority in this specific and understudied population. The unprecedented proximity of overall rates between NLWs and US-born Latino populations runs counter to the prevailing narrative of Latinos having significantly lower cancer risk and mortality. Birthplace data are critical in detecting meaningful differences among Latinos; these findings merit not only clinical but also public health attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number478
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 11 2017


  • Birthplace
  • California
  • Cancer
  • Hispanics
  • Immigrants
  • Latinos
  • Mexican
  • Mortality
  • Nativity
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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