News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
June 1, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
Marilyn Riley 609-984-7160
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Department Releases First Report on Cancer among Hispanics

TRENTON - Hispanics in New Jersey have lower overall rates of cancer incidence and mortality than do other major racial and ethnic groups, although rates are elevated for cervical cancer and certain types of digestive cancers, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant announced today.

Cancer Among Hispanics in New Jersey, 1990 - 1996 is the State Cancer Registry's first report to focus on Hispanics. It is also one of the few such reports in the nation to use a recognized method of evaluating surnames, race and place of birth to make sure the Hispanic data reported is as complete as possible. The executive summary of the report also is available in Spanish.

According to the report, overall cancer incidence and mortality rates for Hispanics, both in New Jersey and the nation, are lower than corresponding rates for non-Hispanic whites and for blacks.

However, the incidence rate of invasive cervical cancer among Hispanic women is 86 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white women (16.7 per 100,000 population vs. 9.0) and the mortality rate is 78 percent higher (4.1 vs. 2.3). Invasive cervical cancer has progressed beyond the very early stage, when it is most easily curable.

The higher rates could be related to lack of access to cervical cancer screening services. Other risk factors include infection with human papillomavirus, which is sexually transmitted, and unprotected sex with multiple partners.

Incidence and mortality rates for cancers of the stomach, liver and gallbladder are also elevated for Hispanics, compared with non-Hispanic whites, the report found. These three cancers and cervical cancer have been consistently identified in many U.S. publications as being higher among Hispanics than among non-Hispanic whites.

The report also noted that Hispanics tend to be diagnosed at later stages of cervical, breast and colon cancer than do non-Hispanic whites.

"This report is an important contribution to our understanding of the health needs of Hispanics," Commissioner Grant said. "It underscores the importance of expanding screening programs to detect cervical, colon and other cancers. These cancers can be caught early, when the treatment outcomes are most favorable."

Using $2.7 million from the state's tobacco settlement, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services this year is expanding its statewide breast and cervical cancer screening program and adding screening for prostate and colorectal cancer. The programs target racial and ethnic minorities, low-income persons, and the uninsured and underinsured.

Since it began in 1996, the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program has screened more than 19,000 women for breast cancer, including more than 5,500 Hispanic women, and screened more than 16,000 women for cervical cancer, including some 5,000 Hispanics. The program's cancer education efforts are culturally appropriate, and include a play entitled "El Secreto de Marta" focusing on breast cancer awareness and detection.

"This report contains very valuable data that will help us deal effectively with the health needs of New Jersey's rapidly growing Latino population," said Dr. Maria Soto-Greene, associate dean for special programs at UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School.
"Our challenge will be to reduce some of these disproportionately high cancer rates in a population that faces many barriers to care. We look forward to the state's first Latino Health Summit to develop recommendations for addressing Latino health needs."

Dr. Soto-Greene is co-chair of the Summit, being held June 2 and 3. At the Summit, about 250 community leaders, health professionals and other participants will discuss ways to eliminate the racial disparities in health -- including higher rates of certain diseases - between Hispanics and other groups in New Jersey.

The cancer report released today notes that health data on Hispanics has historically been difficult to collect, not just in New Jersey but nationwide. Hispanics are a diverse group with different cultures and national origins, and there is no consistent method of collecting Hispanic ethnicity information for federal and state statistics. In New Jersey, ethnicity is an underreported item on death certificates.

To present as complete a picture as possible, the department used a method developed by the Illinois State Cancer Registry to identify as Hispanic cancer cases not already identified through patient self-reporting or the observations of health care providers. This method, which is based on U.S. census data, evaluates patients' surnames (or maiden names, for married women), race and place of birth.

The report is available on the department's web site, www.state.nj.us/health, and may also be obtained by calling (609) 588-3500. To find a site in your county that offers breast, cervical, prostate or colorectal cancer screening, call the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Cancer Education and Early Detection Program at (609) 292-8540. The list of screening sites may also be viewed on the department's web site, www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/canceredu/breast.htm#services.

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