In 2004, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians published Cancer Disparities by Race/Ethnicity and Socioeconomic Status, an article intending to highlight disparities in cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in relation to race/ethnicity and poverty. Click here to download a PDF of the full article.

When assembled, the data exposed lower five-year cancer survival rates in African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander men and African American and American Indian/Native Alaskan women, as compared to non-Hispanic White men and women respectively. Why?

The article names several possible factors contributing to the disparities, including a legacy of racism that may still influence doctor-patient relations, as well as cultural attitudes toward illness and alternative healing methods.  Other factors, such as lack of financial access to nutritious food and increased targeting by tobacco companies, may be possible reasons why some communities experience decreased emphasis on cancer prevention. Lack of access to health care was one possible reason given for decreased rates of screening.

The question is, how do we account for these gaps in screening and prevention awareness to ensure that all ethnic and cultural groups are being educated and tested for the disease?

One randomized trial investigated a tactic to increase screening among ethnic minorities.  Healthy Colon, Healthy Life: A Novel Colorectal Cancer Screening Intervention was published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The study focused on the Latino and Vietnamese communities.  Click here to read the article’s abstract, results and conclusions.

The researchers found that the combination of culturally-tailored brochures and community-specific telephone counseling, along with delivery of the FOBT kit itself, had a rather profound impact; FOBT screening in individuals receiving the kit along with both forms of culturally-adjusted intervention increased by 25.1%,  as opposed to an increase of only 7.8% in the control group and 15.1% in the group that received the FOBT kit and brochure without telephone intervention.

In this beautiful multicultural continent we’ve created, what should our next steps be to decrease colorectal cancer incidence and mortality?

If this topic speaks to you, you may be interested in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, particularly its August 2009 edition, Cancer Risk and Prevention.

For the purpose of this blog post, each ethnic group was referred to in the same manner as it was in its corresponding peer-reviewed journal article.