Latinas Develop Cervical Cancer More Than Women of Other Races, CDC Study Shows
Latinas develop cervical cancer almost twice as often as women in other racial groups, an indication that not enough Latinas are receiving screenings for the disease, according to a CDC study published in the Nov. 29 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers analyzed data from 14,759 new invasive cervical cancer cases from 1992 to 1999. The incidence of cervical cancer was 16.9 cases per 100,000 Latinas age 30 and older, compared with 8.9 cases per 100,000 non-Latina women. CDC epidemiologist Dr. Sidibe Kassim said that Hispanic women "sometimes lack easy access" to screening tests because of age, low education, low income or lack of health insurance. The study notes that the high rates among Latinas occurred despite a 50% decrease in cervical cancer cases among all women in the United States over the last three decades. Kassim said that improved cervical cancer education, screening and treatment led to the overall decline. The study also found that older women of all racial groups were more likely to have advanced stages of cervical cancer when first diagnosed. Forty percent of all women diagnosed had advanced cases of the disease, while 52% of women age 50 and older were diagnosed had advanced cases. The CDC estimates that 13,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year and that 4,100 women will die from the disease (AP/Los Angeles Times, 11/28).
National Alliance for Hispanic Health President Jane Delgado called the CDC findings "old news" and said that the public health community "hasn't done enough to rectify the disparity." According to Delgado, a Pap test combined with a doctor's visit can cost more than $40, a price that is often too high for women with low incomes and no health insurance. Theresa Byrd, a health behavior specialist at the University of Texas Houston School of Public Health, said that in addition to often lacking health insurance coverage, cultural issues "help explain" why Latinas are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer than other women. "What we found is that there's a lot of feelings of embarrassment about the exam itself and, in older women, some sense that their partners don't want them to have the exam," Byrd said, adding that some Latinas equate a Pap test with a sign that they are sexually active, "an image they don't want to broadcast." Byrd and her colleagues recently launched a campaign in the El Paso, Texas, area that uses printed brochures and Spanish-language videos to help "overcome [some Latinas'] resistance to" cervical cancer screenings. Kassim said the CDC needs to develop "culturally appropriate" messages to promote health screening for Hispanics, including the Pap test (Marcus, HealthScoutNews, 11/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.