Cancer in Trinidad & Tobago


The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (Republic T&T) is a twin island country situated northwest of Venezuela, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.


It has a total area of 5,128 square km, of which 4,828 cover Trinidad; and the other 300 square km cover Tobago. The country is about 1.5 times the size of the state of Rhode Island in the United States of America (USA).

Trinidad & Tobago


The population is 1.3 million of which 95.7 % are located in Trinidad. Roughly 55,000 people reside in Tobago. The population density is 246 people per square km (CSO, 2004). Approximately 70.6% of the population is between 15 and 64 years old, and 21.4 % below 14 years (CSO, 2004). The two predominant ethnic groups, which form about 77.5% of the population, are Afro-Trinidadians and Indo-Trinidadians who are descendents of African slaves, and indentured servants from India, respectively. The remaining 22.5% are of mixed racial ancestry, such as white, Chinese, Syrians etc.

Aministrative Areas

Administrative areas of the Republic T&T include: i) two major cities, Port-of-Spain and San Fernando; ii) three boroughs, Arima, Chaguanas and Point Fortin; iii) nine Municipalities; and iv) seven parishes in Tobago.

Nutrition Transition

The economic development within the Republic T&T has been accompanied by changes in diets and lifestyles. The nutrition transition in the Republic T&T is characterized by a proliferation of fast-food restaurants, increased consumption of processed, salted, pickled foods, foods high in saturated fats, sodium, sugars and reduction in the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals and legumes. Also accompanying the nutrition transition in the Republic of T&T is the expected but not surprising increase in chronic diseases, including cancer.

Cancer in the Republic of T&T

Cancer, which represents a large and growing public health problem in the Republic of T&T is the second leading cause of death in the Republic T&T. From the 1990s approximately 54% of all deaths were from chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart diseases, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

Cancer Morbidity and Mortality

In 1994, the National Cancer Registry of the Republic T&T, a population-based Registry, was established (National Cancer Registry, 2005). The National Cancer Registry allows for a consistent reporting system for most of the cancer morbidity and mortality at the national level. According to the National Cancer Registry, between 1995 and 1999, 7,834 new cases of cancer were recorded in the Republic of T&T, and approximately 50% of these occurred in persons between 16 and 64 years old. The National Cancer Registry reported the leading sites for cancer in the Republic T&T between 2000 and 2004 as prostate, breast, colon and rectum, bronchus and lung and cervix uteri. Prostate cancer was the leading cancer death among males in 1995 to 1999 and 2000 to 2004. It is important to note that the world’s highest mortality rates for prostate cancer (30.3 to 47.9 per 100, 000 person years) were seen in Republic of T&T, Barbados and the Bahamas.

Cancer Education Tidbits

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy among Trinidadian / Tobagonian women. Specific studies show that high dietary fat and the tendency towards obesity may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing breast cancer.