Racial Disparities in Colorectal Cancer

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C ancer of the colon and rectum combined is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S. 1 Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death. Americans have a 5.6% (1 in 18) lifetime risk of diagnosis of colorectal cancer. 2 There are 1.07 million Americans who have either been cured of or are currently under treatment for colorectal cancer. It is estimated that 106,680 persons were diagnosed with colon cancer and 41,930 were diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2006. It is estimated that 55,170 died of cancers of the colon and rectum in 2006. 3 There is significant racial/ethnic variance in both the incidence and mortality rates of both colon and rectal cancer. As is common with most cancers, men consistently have higher incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer compared with women. Incidence rates are nearly fourfold higher in developed countries compared with nondeveloped countries. 2 Much of the study of colorectal cancer disparities in the U.S. has focused on black–white differences. These two racial groups have the highest incidence and mortality rates in the U.S. The U.S. NCI Surveil-lance Epidemiology and End Results Program provides black and white incidence and mortality rate trends over the past 30 years as shown in Figure 1. Asian, Native American, and Hispanic rates have only been gathered since the late 1990s and are considerably lower (Table 1). The reasons for the lower incidence and mortality rates in these groups are unknown and largely unexplored. There may be some undercounting, especially among Native American populations. It is also likely that there are some behavioral and dietary influences in these groups that lower the risk of colon cancer. Study of this issue may provide cancer preventive strategies for all Americans. 2




Kauh, J., Brawley, O. W., & Berger, M. (2007). Racial Disparities in Colorectal Cancer. Current Problems in Cancer, 31(3), 123–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.currproblcancer.2007.01.002

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