Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 433-444

Immigration, Health Care Access, and Recent Cancer Tests Among Mexican-Americans in California

  • Nancy BreenAffiliated withHealth Services and Economics Branch, Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute Email author 
  • , Sowmya R. RaoAffiliated withMassachusetts General Hospital Biostatistics Center, Institute for Health Policy
  • , Helen I. MeissnerAffiliated withBehavioral Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute

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Immigrants’ lower rates of cancer testing may be due to lack of fluency in English and other skills and knowledge about navigating US health care markets, lack of access to health services, or both. We analyzed 9,079 Mexican-American respondents to the 2001 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) grouped as born in the US, living in the US 10 or more years, or living in the US less than 10 years. The CHIS provides the largest Mexican-American sample in a US survey. Access to care meant having health insurance coverage and a usual source of care. English proficiency meant the respondent took the interview in English. Multivariate logistic regression was used to predict outcomes. Respondents reporting more time in the US were more likely to report access to medical care and to report getting a cancer screening exam. Regardless of time in the US, respondents reporting access had similar test rates. Regression results indicate that time in the US and primary language were not significant relative to use of cancer screening tests, but access to care was. Cancer screening tests that are covered by Every Woman Counts, California’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program, had smaller gaps among groups than colorectal cancer screening which is not covered by a program. California is the only state with a survey able to monitor changes in small population groups. Understanding barriers specific to subgroups is key to developing appropriate policy and interventions to increase use of cancer screening exams.


Mexican-American Mammography Pap FOBT Colorectal endoscopy Access to care Immigration Language Cancer testing CHIS