Facts about Colorectal Cancer and Minorities

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in African-Americans. In 2002, an estimated 14,100 cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in African-Americans, and 6,800 African-Americans are expected to die from the disease.

Although death rates for colorectal cancer are declining due to increased screening and polyp-removal, the death rates remain higher for African-Americans than those for other ethnic groups.

Because African-Americans are less likely to have polyps detected in their earliest, most treatable stages than are whites, they are less likely to live five or more years after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. From 1992 to 1997, the five-year colorectal cancer survival rate was 51.5 percent for African-Americans-compared with 62 percent for whites.

Although the National Institutes of Health reports that Hispanics have lower rates of colorectal cancer diagnoses and death than both whites and African-Americans, they are also less likely to follow screening recommendations for the disease.

Among Hispanic Americans aged 50 and over surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control, less than 12 percent reported having a fecal occult blood test in the preceding year. Only 25 percent of those surveyed underwent a sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy in the last five years.

Dr. Elmer Huerta, Director of Cancer Prevention at the Washington, D.C.-based Washington Hospital Center, questions the accuracy of colorectal cancer data, suggesting that the current figures may not reflect incidence of the disease in Hispanic communities.

Even if colorectal incidence rates are lower for Hispanics, they should follow recommended colorectal screening practices so that they can detect polyps in their earliest, most treatable stages.

Source: Information provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation, Founders of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

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