Fighting increasing cancer rates among Puerto Rican young adults entails investigating the causes of this alarming trend. It also forces to call young people between 15 and 35 –who are the most affected- to undergo screening tests in order to increase the chances of early detection and treatment.
Government health authorities; doctors and hospitals as well as university research centers and entities that deals with the study and treatment of cancer are tasked with these preventive measures.
The results would support a public policy that focuses on prevention while ensuring access to the most effective treatment.
An increase in cancer rates in Puerto Rican teenagers and young adults has been statistically documented since 2000. The fact that the rate of diagnosis on the island is higher than that of other ethnic groups in the U.S. does draw attention.
It is a priority to conduct studies with more accurate and specific information on the magnitude of cancer rates and factors associated with the development of this disease.
Data collected in recent years offer a starting point. In general terms, it points to a greater recurrence among women and describes the most frequent types of malignant tumors.
The study "The incidence of cancer in adolescents and young adults in Puerto Rico" reveals that in just four years, between 2011 and 2015, there were 4,327 new diagnoses among people aged 15 to 39. The entire period examined by researchers from the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Central Cancer Registry covers from 2000 to 2015.
Additional studies could explain, for example, why women constitute the most affected population group. In the study, they represent 67.6 percent of new diagnoses. The most frequent types of cancer are thyroid, breast, uterus and cervix.
While for men, who constitute 32.4 percent of new diagnoses, the most common types are testicles and thyroid, and Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The difference between men and women demands for scientific explanations. It is crucial to conduct more tests to identify the roots of these anomalies in both genders.
Existing statistics suggest several investigative fields. These include the relationship between incidence and genetics, sedentary lifestyles, quality of food and the environment as well as socioeconomic inequalities.
One aspect highlighted by local doctors is obesity among younger patients, a factor that the Puerto Rico Central Cancer Registry is studying. We urge them to persevere in the analysis, considering the estimates that place obesity and overweight as an epidemic suffered by 60 percent of our population.
It is up to public health authorities to assume the leadership role to create, along with talent and private healthinstitutions, a framework for scientific research.
The lack of detailed information, updated and accessible to researchers, is a limitation that needs to be addressed. Updating statistics is vital for the effort. Likewise, vaccination campaigns against the human papillomavirus, the leading cause of cervical cancer, should be increased.
The results of rigorous research lead to protocols to obtain diagnoses in the initial stage of the disease also to improve treatments and undertake prevention initiatives.
Structured and documented efforts should serve to stop the incidence of a disease that also attacks our young people.