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NCI Center for Global Health

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US-LA CRN Participant: Mexico

Cancer Burden in Mexico1

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Mexico following cardiovascular diseases.
  • In 2008, the age-world-standardized incidence rate (ASR(W)) per 100,000 for cancer incidence in Mexico was 128.4, not including non-melanoma skin cancer. A total of 127,600 new cancer cases were diagnosed.
  • Cancer mortality rates for Mexican males are highest in lung, prostate, and stomach cancers.
  • Cancer mortality rates for Mexican females are highest in breast, cervical, and liver cancers.

Cancer Research Infrastructure in Mexico2

The National Council of Science and Technology-CONACYT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología) is Mexico's organization responsible for promoting scientific and technological activities, setting government policies for these matters, and granting scholarships for postgraduate studies. It is officially designated as a decentralized public agency of Mexico's federal government. CONACYT also administers the National System of Researchers (SNI). SNI researchers receive an economic stimulus payment, in addition to their salaries, depending on their professional level.

Mexico is rapidly developing capabilities in advanced technologies and is engaging with major philanthropic investors to build scientific capacity and participate actively in the world scientific enterprise.  Some of the public national institutes involved in cancer research include the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología (INCAN), the Instituto Nacional de Pediatría (INP), the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica (INSP), and the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Genómica (INMEGEN).  Universities like the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), the Universidad de Guadalajara, and the Universidad de Sonora with its respective regional centers reflect the current trend of increasing investments in cancer research in Mexico.  Although it is not its main mission, the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) (see the section below on Health Care in Mexico) also provides significant contributions to cancer research in Mexico.

Health Care in Mexico3

In Mexico, the Secretariat of Health is responsible for overseeing the quality, safety, and effectiveness of drugs, reagents, immunobiologicals and medical equipment. It maintains national registries for all health supplies, regulates marketing by issuing licenses and health product registrations, and oversees advertising that appears in the mass media. 

The Secretariat of Health, with support from Mexico’s social security institutions – particularly the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) – provides public health care services to Mexico’s population of over 109 million.  Mexico’s social security system covers workers in the employee population and comprises several institutions, each of which is funded by contributions from employers, employees, and the government.  The IMSS is the largest institution in the system and serves about 80% of the covered population.  The system also includes the State Workers Social Security and Services Institute (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado, ISSTE), Petróleos Mexicanos, the Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Armed Forces), and the Armada de México (Navy).  In 2004, the Seguro Popular was approved by the Mexican legislature with the objective to ensure health care for all Mexicans who lack insurance coverage. The Mexican government expects to have enrolled about 51 million people in this insurance by September 2011.

The organization of individual health services is structured by levels of care.  The first level includes health promotion, disease prevention, and outpatient care. The second level provides basic medical specialties at general or specialized hospitals. The third level provides more complex specialized care and clinical and basic research involving physicians and support staff.

There are more physicians than Ph.D.-level researchers in Mexico because health care is guaranteed to all citizens.  There is also a regional disparity in the allocation of scientific resources, with over 75% of all doctoral degrees awarded by institutions in and around Mexico City.

Health Sector Expenditures and Financing3

In the year 2000, the total estimated health expenditure in Mexico was 5.1% of the GDP and 5.9% in 2007. Also in 2007, 71% of the total public health expenditure was covered by the social security system.

National Coordinators

Adrián Daneri, M.D., Ph.D.
Coordinador de Investigación
Centro Universitario de Ciencias de la Salud
Universidad de Guadalajara
Sierra Mojada No. 950 Edificio P Primer Nivel
Colonia Independencia
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico  C.P. 44340
Phone: 52 33 10585200 (3870-3875)
Fax: 52 33 10585200 (3874)

Carlos Arturo Velázquez Contreras, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry-Biology
Universidad de Sonora
Boulevard Luis Encinas y Rosales
Sonora Centro, México


1 Pan American Health Organization Country Health Profiles (2010).

2 International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC-WHO, 2010); Inter American Development Bank Science & Technology Report in Latin America, (IDB, 2011).

3 World Health Statistics, World Health Organization (WHO, 2010); Webpage Secretaría de Salud de Mexico, 2011.