More Americans Need Cancer Screening, CDC Says

"It is troubling to see that not all Americans are getting the recommended cancer screenings and that disparities continue to persist for certain populations," said Sallyann Coleman King, M.D, lead author of the study.

The percentage of U.S. citizens screened for cancer remains below national targets, with significant disparities among racial and ethnic populations, according to a new federal study. The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) , part of the National Institutes of Health, was published recently in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

In 2010, breast cancer screening rates were 72.4 percent, below the Healthy People 2020 target of 81 percent; cervical cancer screening was 83 percent, below the target of 93 percent; and colorectal cancer screening was 58.6 percent, below the target of 70.5 percent, according to the study, “Cancer Screening in the United States – 2010.”

Screening rates for all three cancers were significantly lower among Asians (64.1 percent for breast cancer, 75.4 percent for cervical cancer, and 46.9 percent for colorectal cancer) compared to other groups, the study found. Hispanics were less likely to be screened for cervical and colorectal cancer (78.7 percent and 46.5 percent, respectively) when compared to non-Hispanics (83.8 percent and 59.9 percent, respectively).

“It is troubling to see that not all Americans are getting the recommended cancer screenings and that disparities continue to persist for certain populations. Screening can find breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective,” said Sallyann Coleman King, M.D., an epidemic intelligence service officer in CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and lead author of the study. “We must continue to monitor cancer screening rates to improve the health of all Americans.”

Significant findings include:

  • Screening rates for breast cancer remained relatively stable and varied no more than 3 percent over the period 2000-2010.
  • From 2000-2010, colorectal cancer screening rates increased markedly for men and women, with the rate for women increasing slightly faster so that rates among both sexes were nearly identical (58.5 percent for men and 58.8 percent for women) in 2010.
  • From 2000-2010, a small but statistically significant downward trend of 3.3 percent was observed in the rate of women who reported getting a Pap test within the last three years.
  • Considerably lower breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening use was reported by those without any usual source of health care or health insurance.

The authors note that this study reinforces the need to identify and track cancer screening disparities.

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