11/08/2013 09:32 am ET Updated Nov 08, 2013

Cancer Mortality Rates Are Declining In 9 Latin American Countries


Overall cancer mortality has declined in some countries of the Americas, though it remains the second most common cause of death according to Cancer in the Americas: Country Profiles, 2013, a report released this week at the Fifth International Cancer Control Congress in Lima, Peru.

The data indicates overall cancer deaths are declining in nine countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Venezuela and the United States. Mexico, Nicaragua and El Salvador have the lowest cancer mortality numbers, with the highest cancer mortality rates found in Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba and Argentina.

Overall, Latin America and the Caribbean account for 50 percent of cancer-related mortality in the report despite having more than 60 percent of the region’s population, and men are typically more affected compared to women with the exceptions of El Salvador and Nicaragua, where female cancer mortality is higher due to deaths from cervical and stomach cancers.

Prevalent cancers in Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean nations also differ from other American countries due to the types of cancer most prevalent in the population. According to the report, cancer deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean are primarily due to prostate cancer, followed by lung, stomach and colorectal cancers in men, and in women, breast cancer, stomach, lung, cervical and colorectal cancers are leading causes of mortality.

In comparison, in Canada and the United States lung cancer is the leading cancer killer for both men and women.

Unfortunately, the number of women affected by preventable cancers remains a concern for experts. In most 22 countries of the Americas, breast cancer remains the leading cancer cause of death for women. Honduras, Nicaragua and Bolivia all see cervical cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women.

Deaths by preventable cancers

“The large number of deaths from breast and cervical cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean is very disconcerting, since cervical cancer is largely preventable, and breast cancer can be detected early and treated successfully,’’ Silvana Luciani, PAHO/WHO advisor on cancer prevention and control, said in a statement. ‘’This points to the need to improve screening and treatment, especially for women in rural and remote areas, where access to health services is especially limited.”

Despite the concerns regarding access to treatment and prevention for cervical and breast cancers, numbers are decreasing in some parts of the region.

Cervical cancer mortality has declined significantly in 11 countries, including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and the United States. Similarly, breast cancer mortality rates are decreasing in Canada, the United States and Argentina.

However, Costa Rica and Ecuador have seen an increase in breast cancer mortality.

Cancer mortality and prevalence in Latin America

Other specific cancer findings from the report include:

  • In 18 countries, prostate cancer is the leading cancer cause of death for men.
  • Stomach cancer is highly prevalent in Central America and the Andean region, and is the leading cancer cause of death for both men and women in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Peru, and for men only in Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.
  • Gallbladder cancer, is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for women in Chile, though is an uncommon cancer in most other countries.
  • Lung cancer mortality has declined for both men and women in Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua and the United States, though rates in other countries remain stable.
  • Prostate cancer deaths are declining in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and the United States, but are increasing in Cuba.
  • Adult tobacco smoking is highest in Chile, Bolivia and Uruguay, and is considered the most influential contributor to cancer numbers.
  • Obesity is most common in English-speaking Caribbean countries, primarily the Bahamas, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Researchers hope the new break down of cancer mortality statistics will help countries develop treatment and prevention programs best suited for their population’s needs.

“The idea is to provide key information that can help countries monitor progress in cancer control and assess areas of need,” said Luciani. “This report contributes significantly to the evidence base for cancer policy making and health care.”

Cancer protocols

The report is one of the key components of an initiative set forth by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO), which seeks to help countries implement comprehensive cancer protocols.

Among the plans set in motion, PAHO/WHO works to:

  • Expand immunization against infections that cause certain types of cancer, such as cervical cancer (HPV) and liver cancer (hepatitis B).
  • Strengthen public health policies for cancer prevention, including policies on tobacco control, alcohol reduction, diet and physical activity.
  • Enhance regulations and protection against cancer-causing substances in the workplace and in the environment.
  • Improve quality and access to preventative screening programs, especially for early detection of cervical and breast cancers.
  • Improve the quality of radiotherapy services.
  • Expand access to cancer drugs and subsequent care.
  • Strengthen cancer information systems and registries.

Originally published on VOXXI as Cancer mortality declining in some Latin American countries



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