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Colorectal Cancer Racial Gap Still Growing

Blacks 45 percent more likely to die from the disease than whites, report says

MONDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Despite major progress reducing overall colorectal cancer incidence and death rates in the United States, black men and women are still 45 percent more likely than whites to die of the disease.

That finding was contained in a report released Monday by the American Cancer Society.

The Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2008-2010 report -- the second edition of a report first issued in 2005 found that colorectal cancer incidence and deaths continue to decrease among both blacks and whites, but rates remain higher and declines have been slower among blacks. In fact, the gap between blacks and whites has actually increased over the past few years, the report said.

For example, the previous report found the colorectal cancer incidence rate was 63.1 per 100,000 among white men and 72.9 per 100,000 among black men, a difference of 9.8. The new report said the incidence rate is now 58.9 per 100,000 among white men and 71.2 per 100,000 among black men, a difference of 12.3.

However, the report also found many signs of overall progress. Since the last report was released, 10 more states have enacted legislation ensuring coverage for the full range of colorectal cancer screening tests, bringing the total to 26 states plus Washington, D.C.

Among other advances: the proportion of colorectal cancers diagnosed at a localized stage has increased among most racial and ethnic groups; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new targeted monocolonal antibody therapy (panitumumab) to treat metastatic colorectal cancer, the report said.

"We've made remarkable progress in reducing death and suffering from colorectal cancer," Elizabeth T.H. Fontham, of Louisiana State University and national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, said in a new release. "Tests we have right now allow doctors to detect this killer at its earliest, most treatable stage, or even prevent it altogether. But as this report shows, there's more work to be done to ensure all Americans have access to these lifesaving tests, and that those who do have access to the tests use them."

In 2008, an estimated 148,800 people in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 49,000 will die of the disease, which is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in the country, according to the American Cancer Society.

Many of those cancers and deaths could be prevented through more widespread use of cancer prevention methods and by increasing access to screening tests.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Dec. 15, 2008

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