Colorectal cancer at young age more likely for minority groups

Researchers point to lack of access and lower screening rates, among other possible explanations, for the higher rates among minorities.
By Stephen Feller  |  Jan. 12, 2016 at 4:47 PM
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COLUMBIA, Mo., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Members of ethnic and racial minorities are diagnosed with colorectal cancer at younger ages and more advanced stages, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Missouri said there is a range of possibilities for why younger minorities are diagnosed with more advanced forms of the disease, though lower rates of screening and reduced access to education and health care are among those they suggest.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States and second leading cause of cancer death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 134,000 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2012, and 51,000 died from it.

"Regular screening for colorectal cancer is essential for prevention and early diagnosis," said Dr. Jamal Ibdah, a professor of medicine at the University of Missouri, in a press release. "Our findings suggest a need for further studies to examine current guidelines for all minority groups in the U.S. and the development of possible new interventional strategies."

Researchers who conducted the study, published in Cancer Medicine, analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results study and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, reviewing diagnosis and treatment records collected between 1973 and 2009.

The average age of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer in non-Hispanic whites is 72, with all other average ages being younger. The average age at diagnosis for Hispanics is 66, for Asians and Pacific Islanders it's 68, for American Indians and native Alaskans it's 64, and for blacks it's also 64.

Just 6.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis before age 50, compared to 12 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders, 15.4 percent of Hispanics, 16.5 percent of American Indians and native Alaskans, and 11.9 percent of blacks.

The researchers suggest hereditary and environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle may contribute to the statistics, but lower income levels, lower screening rates, and reduced access to education and health care are also likely culprits, they said.

"While we know the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, little is known about its prevalence within various minority and ethnic groups," Ibdah said. "Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaska Native and African-American populations are the fastest-growing racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States. Having the most accurate statistical data is critical to providing cancer prevention and control programs for these groups."

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