Cancer in Latin America - Statistics & Facts

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the world, accounting for nearly nine million deaths in 2018, making it one of the most crucial topics regarding public health worldwide. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it also represents a great challenge, with around 190 new cases per 100,000 population and nearly 103 deaths per 100,000 population being reported in the region in 2018. Numerous underlying factors can be identified as contributing to the rise of cancer in Latin America. Eating disorders, especially obesity – a proven risk factor for cancer, represent a major health risk in countries like Mexico, where over two thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese. Air pollution is also a significant concern in the region, and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, particularly lung cancer.

Prevalence of cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean has been increasing over time. In 2018, the prevalence rate of patients diagnosed with this disease ranged from a high of 793.5 patients per 100,000 population in Puerto Rico, to a low of 238.9 patients per 100,000 population in Guatemala. Argentina also appears in the top three Latin American countries with the highest cancer prevalence rates, with approximately 587 cases by 100,000 population in 2018. Women make up the majority of cancer patients in Argentina, however, approximately 19 thousand male cases were reported in the country between 2012 and 2017.

Breast and prostate cancer are among the most frequent types of cancer in Latin America, with prevalence rates of 189.5 and 135.8 cases per 100,000 population, respectively. The highest number of patients suffering from these types of malignant tumors is reported in Brazil, where nearly 87 thousand women, as well as 85 thousand men were diagnosed with breast and prostate cancer, respectively in 2018. These types of cancer also account for the highest death rates in the region, with prostate tumors being responsible for the death of nearly 14.2 men per 100,000 inhabitants, and breast cancer causing the death of an estimated 13 women per 100,000 population.

Even though cancer mortality rates may greatly vary depending on the type and severity, average death rates due to this disease have been decreasing over the last decade in Latin America and the Caribbean. One of the main causes is medical technology advances and a broader usage of new equipment in cancer detection and treatment. Still, the Latin American region lags behind in the adoption of such technological developments. For instance, a small percentage of hospitals in Chile reportedly use radiotherapy equipment, and even fewer hospitals in Mexico use mammography systems. The usage rate of vacuum-assisted breast biopsy systems for early breast cancer detection in Colombian hospitals stands at only one percent.

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Cancer in Latin America

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