That's what researchers from the Veterans Administration Medical Center in
Portland wanted to find out.
The researchers write that since 1985, colon cancer rates have dipped 20% to
25% for whites, while rates have gone up for African-American men and stayed
the same for African-American women.
They add some startling figures: that African-Americans are 38% to 43% more
likely to die from colon cancer than are whites.
For this study, researchers looked at where polyps (larger than 9
millimeters) were located in African-Americans and whites who were screened but
had no symptoms. They also compared how prevalent those polyps were in both
Information came from colonoscopy screenings of 5,464 African-Americans and
80,061 whites from 67 screening centers around the United States.
The authors write that "asymptomatic black men and women undergoing
colonoscopy screening are more likely to have one or more polyps sized more
than 9 mm compared with white individuals. The differences were especially
striking among women. These findings emphasize the importance of encouraging
all black men and women to be screened."
Colon Cancer and Race
Nearly 8% of African-American patients had one or more polyps larger than 9
6% of whites had one or more polyps larger than 9 mm.
African-American women had a 62% greater risk of having such a polyp in the
colon when compared with white women.
African-American men had a 16% greater chance of having large polyps when
compared with white men.
Researchers write that these differences cut across all ages in both women
The study was carried out and led by David Lieberman, MD, of Portland VA
The findings were adjusted for age, sex, and whether the participants had a
family history of colon cancer. Increased risk for large polyps was seen in
people over 50 and went up with age but seemed to level off after 80 years of
The researchers also found that there was a significant increase in
prevalence of large polyps found in the proximal colon (beginning part of the
colon) for African-American patients over 60 years old compared with white
patients over 60.
The results are published in the Sept. 24 issue of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.