Report: Racial Gap Widens in Colon Cancer Deaths

Overall rates at low, yet risks for blacks increase

more likely to be diagnosed after the disease has spread beyond the colon. In addition, African Americans with colorectal cancer are less likely than white patients to receive recommended treatment.

Part of screening gap is the access to care issue. African Americans and other minorities are more likely to be uninsured and not have access to adequate and regular healthcare, and those of the people who aren’t being screened at higher levels, says Brooks. The ACS and the National Medical Association, a medical association representing the interests of African-American physicians and their patients, are working together to reduce cancer disparities.

Studies have also shown that insurance status can play a key role in survival, according to the ACS. Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower quality healthcare than whites even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable, according to a 2007 ACS report.

For example, among African Americans, the five-year relative survival rate for colon cancer is 30% higher among patients who are privately insured compared to those without health insurance.

While screening is an important step in lowering the rates of colorectal cancer, the type and quality of care once diagnosed also has a lot to do with successfully fighting the disease. If you are found to have the disease at a more advanced stage and are treated with less than optimal care, then the survival rates are lower, says Brooks. If colon cancer is found in its earlier stage, nine out of 10 people who are treated will be alive five years later. That’s compared with one out of 10 for those who are treated after it has spread.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of death in both men and women in the U.S. About 148,810 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2008, and about 49,960 people will die from the disease this year.

Recommendations for the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer

Screening tests that detect and remove polyps are the most reliable method of preventing colorectal cancer. Other approaches to reduce risk are specified in the current American Cancer Society recommendations for nutrition and physical activity.

-Get screened regularly.

-Maintain a healthy weight.

-Adopt a physically active lifestyle.

-Consume a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources.

-Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

-Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.

-Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.

-Limit your consumption of processed and red meats.

-Limit alcohol consumption.

(Source: American Cancer Society)

Further Reading

Can Colorectal Polyps and Cancer Be Found Early?

Cancer Prevention & Early Detection

Can Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented?

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