Family History of Colorectal Cancer May Make African Americans Less Likely to get Screened

Adapted from CANCER press release

Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful weapons in preventing colorectal cancer. It can, in many cases, prevent the cancer altogether. Yet Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing researcher Kathleen Griffith, PhD, CRNP, has discovered that African-Americans with a family history of colorectal cancer are less likely to be screened than those at average risk for the disease. Findings also suggest that African-Americans with a family history are also less likely to be screened than their white counterparts.

“African-Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and death rates-and the lowest screening rates-of all racial groups in the United States,” says Griffith. “It is difficult to explain why African-Americans who perceive an increased risk for developing cancer, particularly those with a family history of colorectal cancer, are less likely to get screened. Our results suggest that there are some other factors, which we haven’t included in this study, that affect their screening decision.”   
Griffith and her colleagues from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, analyzed data from the 2002 Maryland Cancer Survey, a telephone survey of more than 5,000 Maryland residents, to look for predictors of screening among African-Americans. Analyses revealed that, regardless of family history, individuals who are physically active or who receive a health care provider’s recommendation for colorectal cancer screening are more likely to obtain risk-appropriate screening.

With additional research, Griffith hopes to develop culturally tailored interventions to increase screening rates, which in turn could ultimately improve early detection and reduce colorectal cancer deaths in African Americans. The study is published in the July 15, 2008 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

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