Liver cancer in Hispanics linked to diabetes, obesity

SAN ANTONIO (April 18, 2012) – Liver cancer rates among South Texas Latinos are higher than in other U.S. Latinos, as are rates of obesity and diabetes. Researchers in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center are mapping the relationship among these ailments in a paper published online today in the scientific journal PLoS ONE.

“Regarding risk factors, we found remarkably similar and significantly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in our study groups, with higher obesity prevalence in Texas and particularly South Texas Latinos,” said Amelie Ramirez, Dr. P.H., director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the Health Science Center.

The researchers looked at overall liver cancer rates among U.S. Latinos and compared this with a Texas sample and a South Texas subset from 1995-2006. They also compared prevalence among Latinos of lifestyle-associated factors that contribute to liver cancer: heavy alcohol use, smoking, obesity and diabetes.

They found that from 1995 to 2006, annual age-adjusted liver cancer incidence increased among all populations – but was highest in South Texas Latinos over the entire period. The increase among South Texas Latinos was also significantly greater than all Texas Latinos, who in turn had significantly higher levels of liver cancer than the U.S. national sample.
While obesity and diabetes increased among all three groups, obesity rates were higher in Texas Latinos and highest in South Texas Latinos. Neither heavy alcohol consumption nor cigarette smoking increased.

“We have the opportunity to look at the problem from the standpoint of prevention,” said Dr. Ramirez, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and associate director of health disparities at the Health Science Center’s Cancer Therapy & Research Center.

“Both obesity and diabetes are preventable and/or treatable, so reducing obesity and diabetes may be important for lowering Latinos’ risk for liver cancer, too,” she said.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

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