Latinas/Latinos Issues

Latino Men Face Different Obstacles To Cancer Screening

January 8, 2002(Center for the Advancement of Health)

Nearly half of Latino men have never had a recommended digital rectal exam to check for prostate and colorectal cancer, but the barriers to cancer screenings differ across subgroups of Cuban Americans, Central Americans, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans, according to a study.

A study published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that 64 percent of Cuban-American men over the age of 40 reported having the exam, followed by 63 percent of Puerto Ricans and 52 percent of Central and Mexican Americans. The average across all the groups was 53 percent.

Latinos make up nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population. While cancer rates are generally decreasing across Latino populations in America, abnormally slow decreases and even increases in rates have been noted in some regions, such as California and New Mexico.

Consistent with previous research, this study shows that Latinos represent a heterogeneous population. Having heard of digital rectal exams was the only variable that predicted undergoing the procedure across the different Latino subgroups, says lead author Gregory A. Talavera, M.D., M.P.H., of San Diego State University.

The study was based on telephone surveys with nearly 1,500 Latino men from San Antonio, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, New York City, Brownsville (TX), San Diego and Laredo.

Factors associated with men having the procedure included:

their doctors discussing the exam, but this was true only among Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans and not among other Latino subgroups.

having health insurance, but this was true only among Mexican Americans and Central Americans and not Cuban Americans or Puerto Ricans.

having English skills but only among Cuban Americans and Mexican Americans.

"From a health promotion and social marketing perspective, U.S. Latinos represent varied groups that require diverse approaches. ...Public health policies must acknowledge and address this diversity," says Talavera. The authors note that the study sample was limited by the exclusion of Latinos who do not have telephones and affluent Latinos who do not live in the economically depressed areas surveyed.

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