ACS report: Racial gap is growing for colorectal cancer deaths
Despite unprecedented progress in reducing incidence and death rates from colorectal cancer, the latest data show death rates are about 45 percent higher in African American men and women than in whites, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The data come from Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2008-2010, the second edition of a report first issued in 2005.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. The ACS said that although incidence and mortality rates continue to decrease in both blacks and whites, rates remain higher and declines have been slower among blacks.

Differences in incidence and mortality between blacks and whites have actually grown in the three years since the previous edition of the report was published. For example, in the previous report, the incidence rate in white men was 63.1 (per 100,000) compared to 72.9 in black men, an absolute difference of 9.8; in the current report, the difference between the incidence rate in white men (58.9 per 100,000) and black men (71.2 per 100,000) increased to 12.3, according to the findings.

The report also found signs of progress in many areas since the last issue:
  • In the three years since the report was last published, 10 more states have enacted legislation ensuring coverage for the full range of colorectal cancer screening tests, bringing the total to 26 states plus Washington D.C.;
  • The proportion of colorectal cancers diagnosed at a localized stage has increased among most racial/ethnic groups; and
  • A new targeted monoclonal antibody therapy, Panitumumab (Vectibix), that blocks the effects of hormone-like factors that promote cancer cell growth has been approved by the FDA to treat metastatic colorectal cancer.
"We've made remarkable progress in reducing death and suffering from colorectal cancer," said Elizabeth T.H. Fontham, MPH, DrPH, of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, national volunteer president of the ACS. "Tests we have right now allow doctors to detect this killer at its earliest, most treatable stage, or even prevent it altogether. But as this report shows, there's more work to be done to ensure all Americans have access to these lifesaving tests, and that those who do have access to the tests use them."