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CQ – While Disparities Persist, Cancer Screening Rates Equalize for African Americans

CQ – While Disparities Persist, Cancer Screening Rates Equalize for African Americans


Screening rates for three prominent cancers were lower among Asians and Hispanics in 2010, indicating a continuing trend

of racial and ethnic disparity. But the testing gap for African American women has closed for some services, according to a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among Asians, 64 percent reported being screened for breast cancer, 75 percent for cervical cancer and 47 percent for colorectal cancer. Rates for Hispanics were 70 percent for breast cancer screening, 79 percent for cervical cancer screening and 46 percent for colorectal cancer screening.

In the entire population, screening rates were 72 percent for breast cancer, 83 percent for cervical and 59 percent for colorectal. Rates for all the services remain less than government-set targets of 81 percent for breast cancer screening, 93 percent for cervical cancer screening and 70.5 percent for colorectal cancer screening.

Despite the generally lower rates for some groups, African Americans were more likely to be screened for breast and cervical cancer compared to the overall rate, at 73 percent for mammography and 85 percent for Pap tests.

“That’s a success story,” said Marcus Plescia, director of the CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. He attributed the rates to efforts by physicians and the public health community to raise awareness about cancer risks among African Americans. African Americans tend to have more aggressive forms of some cancer than the general population, he added. “We explicitly looked at ways to reach out to that population,” he said. He also noted that CDC provides access to screening for uninsured and underinsured women. Despite the higher rates of screening for breast and cervical cancer, screening rates for colorectal cancer continue to lag among African Americans. Plescia attributed the trend to fewer men seeking services than women.

Researchers based the survey results on self-reported rates of mammograms within the past two years, Pap test within three years and colorectal cancer screening via fecal occult blood testing and/or sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy within recommended intervals. Data was collected through the National Health Interview Survey.

The survey found that overall screening rates remained relatively stable between 2000 and 2010 while rates for colorectal cancer screening increased for both sexes, but slightly faster for women. Researchers noted a “small but statistically significant downward trend” in levels of Pap tests.

Predictably, the uninsured had “considerably lower” screening rates than the general population, the study also found. Among that group, the breast cancer screening rate was 38 percent, cervical cancer rate was 64 percent and the colorectal cancer screening was 21 percent.