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Social, Health Care Factors Drive Colon Screen Disparities

Economic status, access and language barriers affect who goes for tests, study concludes

TUESDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- The higher death rate from colorectal cancer among minorities in United States may be linked to socioeconomic, health care access, language and cultural barriers that lead to less preventative screening among these groups, a new report finds.

The report, published in the June 23 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, analyzes national data about demographics, colorectal cancer screening and other social and health care factors from almost 23,000 older Americans surveyed in the first half of this decade.

While 54.1 percent of all those surveyed received colorectal cancer screening, either by colonoscopy or fecal occult blood testing, great disparities between ethnic and racial groups were apparent. Slightly more than 57 percent of whites received one of the procedures while only about 34 percent of Asians, 48 percent of blacks and 37 percent of Hispanics did.

These disparities among blacks, Hispanics and whites disappeared, however, when researchers factored out demographics, socioeconomic status, language spoken at home and access to health care access, the authors said.

"Beyond socioeconomic factors, which disproportionately affect minorities, these findings suggest the effect of access and, for Hispanics, language-appropriate care on colorectal cancer screening uptake," the authors wrote.

With Asians, though, culture issues seem to play more of a role in not undergoing the procedures, the researchers wrote.

"Less acculturated Asian individuals in the United States may have core health beliefs and values that differ from those in the Western health model, leading them to decline (fecal occult blood testing) or endoscopy offered in the absence of worrisome symptoms. They may also be less likely to be offered colorectal cancer screening," the authors wrote.

Colorectal cancer screening rates among the entire U.S. population are lower than those for other cancer screening tests, according to background information in the article.

The authors concluded that screening education programs tailored to each minority group, as well as improved health care access, could improve testing rates.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about colorectal cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 23, 2008

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