Members of minority groups in the United States are more likely than whites to be diagnosed with colon cancer at younger ages and with more advanced disease, researchers report.
An analysis of data from 1973 to 2009 revealed that minorities under age 50 were twice as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer as whites, said study author Dr. Jamal Ibdah, who chairs cancer research at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
“On average, minorities were diagnosed between the ages of 64 and 68, while non-Hispanic whites were typically diagnosed at age 72. When diagnosed, minority groups also had more advanced stages of cancer,” Ibdah said in a university news release.
The study was recently published in the journal Cancer Medicine.
Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, the researchers said.
“While we know the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, little is known about its prevalence within various minority and ethnic groups,” Ibdah said.
“Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaska Native and African-American populations are the fastest-growing racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States. Having the most accurate statistical data is critical to providing cancer prevention and control programs for these groups,” he explained.
Several factors could lead to colon cancer at a younger age, including genes, environment, diet and lifestyle. Possible reasons why minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced colon cancer include less access to health care and education, lower screening rates and lower income levels, Ibdah said.
Current guidelines call for colon cancer screening to start at age 50, which might be too late, the study suggests.
“Regular screening for colorectal cancer is essential for prevention and early diagnosis,” Ibdah said. “Our findings suggest a need for further studies to examine current guidelines for all minority groups in the U.S. and the development of possible new interventional strategies.”
The American Cancer Society has more about colon cancer.