Colorectal Cancer Survival Gap Between Whites and African Americans

Although colorectal cancer death rates are falling for both whites and blacks in the United States, the decline is steeper for whites and the gap between races is growing.

A new  report from the American Cancer Society, Colorectal Cancer: Facts and Figures 2008-2010, finds that African American men and women are more likely than the rest of the U.S. population to get colon or rectal cancer and much more likely to die of it.  In 2005, the death rate for African Americans was 48 percent higher than that for whites.

Officials at the ACS attribute the difference to lower colorectal cancer screening rates, poorer insurance coverage, and fewer African Americans receiving recommended surgical and chemotherapy treatments.

Incidence and death rates for Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are lower than for white and the overall populations.

In a time of increased screening and improved treatment for colorectal cancer, the difference in survival is widening between blacks and whites.  Before 1980, African American men actually had lower death rates from colorectal cancer, and rates for black women were similar to white women.  Today 71 in every 100,000 black men and 55 in 100,000 black women will get colorectal cancer compared to 58 white men and 43 white women.

Nearly 32 per 100,000 black men will die, compared to 22 white men.  For women, the gap is 22 per 100,000 blacks versus 15 white women.

Overall, survival from colorectal cancer is improving substantially.  In the 1970’s half of people who got colorectal cancer died.  Today 65 percent or 2 out of 3 patients will survive.

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