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More Americans Need Cancer Screening, CDC Says

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Cancer-screening rates in the United States continue to fall short of national goals, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening among Asian and Hispanic ethic groups is particularly poor, the report says.

In 2010, overall breast cancer-screening rates were 72.4 percent, below the national target of 81 percent; cervical cancer-screening rates were 83 percent, below the target of 93 percent; and colorectal cancer-screening rates were 58.6 percent, below the target of 70.5 percent, the study says.

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 with 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), as compared with 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," said study researcher Dr. Sallyann Coleman King, an epidemic intelligence service officer in CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. "Screening can find breast, cervical and colorectal cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective."

Women ages 50 to 74 years should be screened for breast cancer with a mammogram every two years, according to the United States Preventive Services Task Force. Women who have been sexually active for three years, or are ages 21 to 65 years, should be screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test at least every three years. Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for average-risk men and women ages 50 to 75 years, either with a colonoscopy every 10 years, or more frequently with other colon cancer-screening tests.

The report also found:

  • Screening rates for breast cancer remained relatively stable and varied by no more than 3 percent between 2000 and 2010.
  • From 2000 to 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 to 2010, a small decrease of 3.3 percent was seen 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 people without any usual source of health care, or health insurance.

Screening rates may improve in the coming years, because the Affordable Care Act is expected to reduce financial barriers to health care by expanding insurance coverage, according to the report. However, other efforts are needed to improve screening, such as developing systems that identify individuals eligible for cancer-screening tests, actively encouraging the use of screening tests, and monitoring participation to improve screening rates, the researchers say.

The report was based on data gathered during the CDC's 2010 National Health Interview Survey, in which researchers interviewed U.S. adults about the health of their household. The data are limited in that they rely on self-reports, and because recommendations for cancer-screening tests have changed over time, the report noted.

The report is published today (Jan. 26) in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Pass it on: Efforts should be made to increase breast, colon and cervical cancer screening in the United States, particularly among Asian and Hispanic populations, a new report says.

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Live Science Staff
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