Lack of Insurance and Regular Medical Care Influences Colorectal Cancer Screening

Half of Americans over 50 have not been screened for colorectal cancer according to a new survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The 2005 National Health Survey interviewed 31,000 adults, including 13,500 who were over 50.  It found that 50 percent of people over the age of 50 had been screened for colorectal cancer, but the other half had not.  While this was an improvement over the 43 percent screening rate in 2000, it was far from desirable according to the researchers who analyzed the information.

Jean A. Shapiro, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the CDC said,

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading cancer killers in the United States, behind only lung cancer. Screening has been shown to significantly reduce mortality from colorectal cancer, but a lot of people are still not getting screened.

Dr. Shapiro pointed out that lack of insurance and a usual source of medical care may be an important part of the problem.  While over 50 percent of people with insurance had been screened, depending on source of insurance, less than a quarter (24.1 percent) of the uninsured were screened.  Almost 52 percent of people who had a regular doctor were screened compared to less than 25 percent of those without a usual source of care.

In addition, Dr. Shapiro said that the expansion of Medicare coverage for screening in 2001 probably also was part of the increase.

She said,

If we can increase the number of people who have health care coverage, we should be able to increase colorectal cancer screening rates.

Other factors affecting screening that the survey revealed included,

  • Less education: 60.7 percent of college graduates were screened, compared to 37 percent of those with less than a high school education.
  • Lower household income: 58.5 percent of people whose annual household income was $75,000 or more were screened versus 37.4 percent of those who earned less than $20,000.
  • Seeing a doctor more often: People who saw a doctor two to five times in the year before the survey were more than two and a half times more likely to be screened than those who had not seen a doctor at all (52.5 percent versus 19.5 percent).

About half of those surveyed who had not been screened reported that they “had never thought about it.” Twenty percent said, “Their doctor didn’t order it.”

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) News Release, July 14, 2008.

Shapiro et al. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, Volume 17, Number 7, July 2008.

For information on how C3 is working to increase coverage for colorectal cancer screening and how you can help go to CoverYourButt.Org.

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