Cancer Among Hispanics In New Jersey

Executive Summary

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This report, Cancer Among Hispanics in New Jersey 1990-1996, presents cancer incidence and mortality data among Hispanics in New Jersey from 1990 through 1996. Recent improvements in technology and in the availability of population data have made calculation of Hispanic cancer incidence and mortality rates, and this report, feasible for the first time in New Jersey.

In this report, cancer incidence and mortality data for Hispanics are compared to corresponding data for non-Hispanic whites and all blacks. Note that because Hispanics may be of any race, there is some overlap in the Hispanic and black populations. In past reports, we have presented and compared data on cancer for white and black residents, and in the current report, while we present such data, we do not discuss comparisons of cancer incidence and mortality in those two groups.


In general, Hispanic cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States and New Jersey are lower than corresponding rates among non-Hispanic whites and among blacks. However, there are certain cancers for which incidence rates in Hispanics are higher than in the overall population, particularly cancers of the cervix, liver, gallbladder, stomach and multiple myeloma. During the years 1990-1996, the cancer incidence rate among New Jersey Hispanics increased 2.0 percent and the mortality rate due to cancer declined by 8.2 percent, similar to trends among New Jersey blacks and non-Hispanic whites.

The data in this report on stage at diagnosis suggest that, among the Hispanic population of New Jersey, significant improvement in cancer survival could be accomplished through widespread earlier screening for colon cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Since the incidence rate of cervical cancer among Hispanic women is 86 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white women, and the cervical cancer mortality rate among Hispanic women is 78 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white women, it is particularly important that routine screening for cervical cancers be increased among Hispanic women.

Data Limitations

Health data specific to the Hispanic population have historically been difficult to collect. Hispanics are a diverse group with different cultures, ethnic subgroups, national origins, customs, and socioeconomic status. In addition, no standard definition exists for Hispanic ethnicity and there is no consistent instrument or method for collecting Hispanic ethnicity information for federal and state statistics. Designations of individuals as Hispanic in this report are based on both self reports and observations by health providers and other professionals, an approach taken by most other state cancer registries.

Data on Hispanic ethnicity in the New Jersey State Cancer Registry is collected during hospital admission, but that information is not always asked by hospital staff. On New Jersey death certificates, ethnicity is an underreported item. In this report, a method of evaluating surnames (maiden names, in the case of ever married women) has been used to make more complete the number of Hispanic incident cases and deceased persons already identified as Hispanic by self report and by health professionals. This method, based on an algorithm developed by the Illinois State Cancer Registry1,2 makes use of United States census data on Hispanic surnames, as well as marital status, birthplace and race information, and is described in detail in a technical note at the end of the report.

Therefore, since this report brings together data collected by several different methods (self-report, observation, and inferences from a complex algorithm), there are also several potential sources of error in the estimation of Hispanic ethnicity. Despite these limitations, this report has been generated to begin the process of assessing cancer status and health care needs among persons of Hispanic origin. Hispanics are an important part of our population and are frequently undercounted in health data. There is increased interest in Hispanic health data at the state and federal level, and, as discussed above, there are new methodological tools for generating the data presented and discussed in the following pages.

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