School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Disease patterns in Mexican-American health-disparity populations differ from larger United States populations.


Determine frequency of gastrointestinal cancers in Mexican Americans.


We analyzed self-reported data from the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort where we find high rates of risk factors for cancer: obesity (48.5%), diabetes (30.7%). Participants provided cancer histories about themselves and first and second degree relatives. Logistic regression models assessed risk factors. Frequencies of cancer sites were ranked and validated using concurrent age local cancer registry data.


Among 9,249 individuals (participants and their relatives) there were 1,184 individuals with reports of cancer. Among cohort participants under 70 years of age the most significant risk factor for all-cause cancers was diabetes (OR 3.57, 95% CI 1.32, 9.62). Participants with metabolic syndrome were significantly more likely to report cancer in relatives (1.73 (95%CI 1.26, 2.37). Among cancers in fathers, liver cancer was ranked third, stomach fourth, colorectal sixth and pancreas tenth. In mothers, stomach was third, liver fourth, colorectal seventh and pancreas eleventh. The unusual prominence of these cancers in Mexican Americans, including liver cancer, was supported by age-adjusted incidence in local registry data.


Gastrointestinal system cancers, particularly liver cancer, in a Mexican American health disparity cohort and their relatives rank higher than in other ethnicities and are associated with high rates of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Effective prevention of diabetes and low-tech, high-quality screening strategies for gastrointestinal cancers are needed in health disparity communities.


Copyright © 2015, W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute. Original published version available at

Publication Title

J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities





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