Health Care Gap May Raise Rates of Colorectal Cancer Death in Blacks

WEDNESDAY Aug. 25, 2010 -- Unequal health care may explain why black colorectal cancer patients have a much higher death rate than white patients, a new U.S. study suggests.

Researchers analyzed national colorectal cancer death rates between 1960 and 2005. During that time, there was a 54 percent reduction in deaths among white women and only a 14 percent reduction among black women.

The disparity was even more striking among men. While the death rate for white men decreased 39 percent, the death rate for black men increased 28 percent, the researchers reported.

The study also found that black patients had worse rates of stage-specific survival and life expectancy. For example, in the 1970s, the life expectancy for a 60-year-old white man with localized colorectal cancer was 1.01 years more than for a black man the same age. By the 2000s, that gap had increased to 2.7 years.

"Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that has had advances in detection, treatment and survival over the second half of the 20th century. But despite these advancements, we observed ever-widening racial gaps in overall and stage-specific survival," study author Samir Soneji, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release from the Center for Advancing Health.

Soneji and colleagues said the disparities identified in their study may be due to differences in the quality of health care. Compared to whites, blacks underwent less colorectal cancer screening and their cancer was detected at more advanced stages.

The study was released online Aug. 19 in advance of publication in the October print issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about colorectal cancer.

Posted: August 2010


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