FRIDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Although colorectal cancer
death rates in the United States have fallen across the board over
the last 20 years, the dip has been smaller among blacks than
whites, a new study indicates.
Specifically, the racial spread in death rate trends appears to
be most notable among patients diagnosed with the most advanced
stage of the disease, according to the results of an investigation
by the American Cancer Society (ACS).
"The widening racial disparity for [advanced]-stage has a disproportionate impact on overall colorectal cancer mortality disparities because [advanced]-stage accounts for approximately 60 percent of the overall black-white mortality disparity," the study authors explained in an ACS news release.
The study team, led by Dr. Anthony Robbins, pointed out that up
until 1980, black Americans were actually less likely to die from
colorectal cancer overall than whites. Since then, however, the
availability of ever-better screening and treatment options has
turned that dynamic on its head. The result: by 2007, the rate of
death among blacks was 44 percent greater than that among
The reason, the authors suggested, may be that black patients do
not seem to be getting screened or treated as often and as
aggressively as white patients.
The aim of the current ACS study was to find out how exactly
racial differences in plummeting death rates have been playing out
with respect to disease progression: namely, early-stage (in which
cancer is localized); mid-stage (in which cancer has spread to
regional lymph nodes); and late-stage (in which the cancer is made
its way throughout the patient's body).
To explore that question, the team analyzed two decades of
information that had already been gathered by the U.S. National
Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results
(SEER) Program database.
The review, released online Dec. 19 in advance of print
publication in the
Journal of Clinical Oncology, revealed that while racial differences in death rate declines were apparent at every stage of disease, the divide was most stark among late-stage patients.
For example, while early-stage white patients experienced a
roughly 30 percent drop in death rates over the last 20 years,
their black peers experienced about a 13 percent decline. Among
mid-stage patients, the drop was almost 49 percent among whites
versus 34 percent among blacks.
But for those with the most advanced stage of disease, the gap
was even greater: death rates had dropped by nearly 33 percent
among whites compared with just under 5 percent among blacks, the
The authors noted that black Americans tend to be screened less
often, are less likely to have timely follow-ups when they are
screened, and are generally less well informed when it comes to the
latest and best treatment options. The researchers suggested that
to rectify the problem, an effort should be made to bump up
early-stage detection of colorectal cancer among black
For more on colorectal cancer, visit the
U.S. National Cancer Institute.