Race and Colorectal Cancer Screening

Study finds differences in colorectal cancer screening rates between races across geographic regions

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to new research, the likelihood of individuals getting screened for colorectal cancer differs across geographic and racial lines.

The findings are published online in the American Cancer Society's journal called Cancer.

Led by Thomas Semrad, M.D., of the University of California at Davis, a team of researchers analyzed colorectal cancer screening rates of Medicare patients in eight US states. If patients had fecal occult blood testing within the last year, or sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in the last five years, they were deemed up-to-date on screening.

In 2007 (the most recent data available), colorectal cancer was diagnosed in 142,672 people in the United States. Of that, 53,219 people died from colorectal cancer. Although screening tests are readily available, they remain significantly underused. According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), only half of US adults 50 years of age and older are up-to-date on colorectal cancer screening.

Even though Semrad and his team found little geographic variation in screening rates among whites, they found significant variation between whites and non-whites across different geographic regions. In Atlanta, rural Georgia, and the San Francisco Bay Area, the up-to-date status of whites versus blacks differed from 10 to 16 percent, with whites much more up-to-date than blacks. However, there was no pronounced difference between whites and blacks in Connecticut, Seattle, or Iowa. In Michigan, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose, the up-to-date status of Asian/Pacific Islanders was less than that of whites by 4 to 15 percent. Asian/Pacific Islander up-to-date status in Hawaii, on the other hand, was greater than that of whites by a margin of 52 percent to 38 percent. Although the up-to-date status of whites versus Hispanics was markedly different, those differences remained equal across regions.

The researchers conclude that these differences are largely due to colorectal cancer screening rates of non-whites. According to Dr. Semrad, these findings call attention to the need to better understand how health care is provided to non-whites. He concludes that, in general, efforts to increase colorectal cancer screening rates are necessary.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 11, 2011
Last Updated:
January 12, 2011