A recent data analysis discovered that racial and ethnic disparities continue to affect survival rates in early-onset colorectal cancer (CRC) patients.
According to the study, the five-year survival rate for Hispanics, Blacks or Asians with early-onset CRC did not improve during a 20-year period. The study focused on patients between 1992 and 2013. Early onset means the patient receives a diagnosis before the age of 50.
The data revealed the only survival rate improvement was in white patients.
Researchers identified 33,777 individuals newly diagnosed with early-onset CRC between Jan. 1, 1992, and Dec. 31, 2013. Of these, 58.5 percent were white; 14.5 percent Hispanic; 14 percent Black and 13 percent Asian. Statistics came from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program of cancer registries.
The study revealed “Blacks had not caught up to whites in surviving early-onset CRC.”
“Survival for Blacks diagnosed from 2003 to 2013 remained even lower than for whites diagnosed a decade earlier,” said Timothy Zaki, MD, the study’s lead author.
The analysis also noted key treatment data for Hispanic and Asian patients.
“Our study’s identification of disparities among younger Hispanic and Asian adults adds to existing literature,” Dr. Zaki told MedicalXpress. “However, we lack information, such as what treatment these individuals received, that could help explain the disparities, so we are still left with the question of why they exist.”
Scientists believe there are reasons for racial and ethnic healthcare disparities. These reasons may include “employment, insurance status, income and education level, behaviors (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, diet), environment (e.g., rural or urban), social support and cultural factors.”
Dr. Zaki noted concern that health disparities may worsen now that recommendations for CRC screening start at age 45, not 50.
“If more are screened who have the means and inclination to do so — but we fail to make progress in other populations — we could see these gaps widening,” Dr. Zaki told MedicalXpress.
Colon Cancer Health Risks for Hispanics
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) in the United States, it is important to recognize the health and well-being of our Hispanic population.
New statistics appear in the American Cancer Society’s (ACS’s) Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanic/Latino People 2021-2023:
- CRC is the second-deadliest cancer among Hispanic males.
- CRC is the third-deadliest cancer among Hispanic females.
- CRC causes about 2,700 deaths among Hispanic males.
- CRC causes about 2,000 deaths among Hispanic females.
A colorectal cancer diagnosis is preventable through screening.
Get screened at 45
Healthcare agencies recommend CRC screening begin at 45, even without symptoms. Patients with digestive symptoms should seek medical care regardless of age.
In 2018, colon cancer screening prevalence was 9 percent lower for Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites among adults 45 and older, according to the ACS.
Colonoscopy is the preferred method for screening because colorectal cancer can be both detected and removed during the same procedure. Other screenings can detect the presence of cancer cells or hidden blood in the stool. However, if a patient receives a positive test result, he or she will need a follow-up colonoscopy.
Health insurance plans within the Affordable Care Act provide no-cost coverage for preventive and follow-up colonoscopy screenings. Contact your provider to determine your coverage.
If you do not have insurance, there are resources to learn about a low-cost or free colonoscopy. Some resources include the Colorectal Cancer Alliance Helpline, ColonoscopyAssist or your state’s health and human services or department of public health.
Patients who are at high risk for colon cancer may need to be screened before age 45. In addition, patients with digestive symptoms should seek medical attention regardless of age. Colonoscopy should always be the screening test of choice for those who have any of the following:
- Previous CRC diagnosis
- History of adenomas
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Family history of colon cancer or certain types of polyps
- Inherited colon cancer syndrome (e.g., Lynch Syndrome)
It is important to discuss CRC risks and symptoms with your family and doctor. It is also important to get screened. Both may save your life or the life of a loved one.
Our doctors perform colonoscopy screenings at surgery centers around the country. Schedule an appointment today.