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STUDY: Women In The Caribbean Twice As Likely To Get Breast Cancer As Their U.S. Mainland Counterparts

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MIAMI — In a recent study, researchers from Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the rates of death from cervical, breast, prostate and colon cancers are two to nine times higher in the Caribbean compared to the United States. Only lung cancer was higher in the US.

The study also reported that prostate cancer, a common cause of death among Caribbean men, accounted for 18 per cent to 47 per cent of cancer deaths, while lung cancer accounted for five per cent to 24 per cent and was the second-highest cause of cancer deaths among males. Breast cancer, the main cause of cancer death among females, accounted for 14 per cent to 30 per cent of cancer deaths and are up to two times higher compared to the US.

“The large number of deaths from these types of cancers is very alarming since they are mostly preventable. Breast cancer can be detected early and treated successfully. Cervical cancer is perhaps the most preventable through education, vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV), screening, early detection and treatment,” said Dr. James Hospedales, executive director of CARPHA.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the Caribbean, according to the study, published last month in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This is the first time that information on cancer mortality for the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean is published in a prestigious peer review journal.

In some of its key findings, the study highlights prostate cancer as the leading cause of death among men of African descent from the Caribbean, as well as in the United States and Africa. The researchers found that for both men and women, colon and rectum cancers are the third most common cause of cancer death in the Caribbean.


The leading causes of cancer deaths in the Caribbean can be reduced through prevention, screening, early detection, and effective treatment for cervical, breast and colorectal cancers.

“Research has shown that adopting healthy lifestyle choices can contribute to the reduction of cancer cases and as a consequence, deaths and costs from the disease in our region”, said Dr Hospedales. Prevention measures include avoiding use of tobacco, limiting alcohol use, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, keeping a healthy weight, and being physically active.

CARPHA is committed to working with key partners to reduce the burden of cancer in the region. The agency is collaborating with CDC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and other global partners to develop and implement the IARC Regional Cancer Registry Hub for the Caribbean. The Cancer Registry Hub, which will provide essential technical support to strengthen cancer registration for improving cancer prevention and control in member states, will be launched this year.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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