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Too Few Latinos Get Colorectal Cancer Tests

Language barrier could explain lower screening rates, researchers say

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Language barriers may contribute to lower screening rates for colorectal cancer among Mexican-Americans, a San Diego State University study suggests.

A 2005 telephone survey of close to 17,000 older Californian residents found that two thirds of those of Mexican descent needed another person to help them talk with doctors -- more than three times the rate of those non-Latinos surveyed.

This, the researchers said, could account for another finding: More than 40 percent of Mexican-Americans never received one of the two most common screening tests for colorectal cancer while the same was true of less than a quarter of non-Latino whites.

The study results appear in the summer issue of the journal Ethnicity & Disease.

While national statistics show that Latinos tend to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer during its later, advanced stages and thus have a lower survival rate than non-Latino whites, at least one doctor believes cultural issues may be at play as much as language barriers.

Luisa Borrell, an associate professor in the public health graduate program at Lehman College, City University of New York, notes that while a third of Californians may be Hispanic, the number of Hispanic doctors is still in the low single digits.

"The pipeline for Hispanics to increase the number of physicians is not ready to match the demand of the fast-growing Hispanic population now or in the near future," Borrell, who was not involved in the study, said in a news release issued by Health Behavior News Service.

Borrell also noted language may be less of an issue in the future as California now has laws requiring translators be present in places where health care is offered.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about colon and rectal cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Health Behavior News Service, news release, Sept. 8, 2009

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