Cancer incidence for American Indians and Alaska Natives is typically reported as a single rate for all U.S. indigenous populations combined. Previously reported combined rates suggest that American Indians and Alaska Natives have lower cancer incidence rates compared with the U.S. population. Alaska Native people comprise three major ethnic groups: Eskimo, Indian, and Aleut people. We examined cancer incidence from only Alaska Indians and compared incidence rates with an American Indian population living in New Mexico. These data indicate striking differences in cancer patterns between two American Indian populations. Cancer data for the years 1993 to 2002 for American Indians of New Mexico and U.S. Whites are from the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program Public-use data set. Data for Alaska Indians are from the Alaska Native Tumor Registry, which is also a Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Program participant. Overall, cancer incidence rates for all sites combined in New Mexico Indian men and women were lower than U.S. White rates, whereas Alaska Indian men and women exceeded U.S. rates. In comparing Alaska and New Mexico Indians, we observed a 2.5-fold higher incidence of cancer among Alaska Indians. The largest differences between the two Indian populations were noted primarily in cancers associated with tobacco use, including cancers of the oral cavity/pharynx, esophagus (only in men), colon and rectum, pancreas, larynx (men), lung, prostate, and urinary bladder (men). Lung cancer rates in Alaska Indian men and women were 7 and 10 times those of New Mexico Indian men and women.
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