Why Hispanic Women Face Unique Endometrial Cancer Obstacles

April 22, 2019

It is hard to follow the risk factors and prevention methods for all cancers. Especially when certain types of cancers receive more awareness than others. Endometrial cancer— a type of uterine cancer that forms in the tissue lining of the uterus—is one of the most common cancers in American women, yet many populations, including Hispanic women, lack the necessary information to recognize risk factors.

 The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) conducted a study to compare the cancer-specific survival of non-Hispanic White and Hispanic women with endometrial cancer. This study found that Hispanic women have higher rates of cancer-specific mortality although non-Hispanic White women have higher incidence rates. The researchers compared the role of demographics, tumor characteristics, time of the first treatment, and the survival rates of the participants. After the completion of the study, it was found that Hispanic patients tended to be diagnosed with a more aggressive cancer due to later detection of the tumor.

Some of the risk factors associated with endometrial cancer that Hispanic women should be aware of include obesity or being overweight, diet and exercise, and age. The Office of Minority Health estimated that 77.1 percent of Hispanic women of 20 years of age and over are either overweight or obese. There is also a link between a high fat-diet and an increased risk of endometrial cancer, such as fatty foods, which have a direct effect on how the body uses estrogen. Physical activity lowers the risk of endometrial cancer as many studies have found that women who exercise more have a lower risk of developing this type of cancer. Furthermore, the UTMB research also found that U.S-born and foreign-born Hispanic patients developed their disease at a younger age, at under 50 years, compared to non-Hispanic Whites.

The conclusion of the study also highlighted the importance of early detection of endometrial cancer to improve survival rates. However, Hispanic women are less likely to receive routine Pap smears and to seek medical attention once they exhibit symptoms, allowing the cancer to progress to a more advanced stage. This is particularly challenging for Hispanic women as they face unique disparities such as access to information, hospitals or clinics, and health insurance. Immigration status is another important factor that affects access to health. Since there is no current screening test for endometrial cancer, increased efforts are needed to improve education and access to early care for Hispanic women.