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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Colon Cancer Survival Rate: Racial Gap

Blacks Have Lowest Colon Cancer Survival Rate in Study of Insured People
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 21, 2006 -- Among people with health insurance, blacks have the lowest colon cancer survival rate, a new study shows.

The racial gap may be due to a mix of factors including racial differences in colon cancer screening and treatment, note the researchers.

They included Chyke Doubeni, MD, MPH, of the University of Massachusetts' department of family medicine and community health.

They studied data on nearly 14,000 U.S. adults diagnosed with colon cancer or rectal cancer between 1993 and 1998.

The group included more than 10,500 whites, nearly 1,500 blacks, 985 Hispanics, and about 900 Asians/Pacific Islanders.

All had health insurance through any of six health care systems across the country.

Tracking Colon Cancer Survival Rates

The patients were followed through December 2003. During that time, 4,024 patients in the study died of colorectal cancer.

Blacks were the most likely to die of colorectal cancer. Hispanics and whites tied for second place, followed by Asians/Pacific Islanders.

Blacks were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced tumors and less likely than whites to undergo colorectal cancer surgery.

Those two factors -- tumor stage and treatment -- appeared to account for much of the racial gap in survival, but the link between race and survival was "complex," the researchers write.

They note that while the patients were insured, their out-of-pocket medical expenses and ability to get time off from work for doctor's appointments may have varied.

Because colonoscopy has become more common since the 1990s, the data should be updated, Doubeni's team notes.

Colon screening is recommended for all average-risk people starting at age 50.

People at higher risk of colon cancer may need to start screening earlier. Ask your doctor for screening recommendations.

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