Photo: Latinos Lag in Cancer Screening
A recent study found that Latinos were less likely to get screened for colon cancer than whites. The California study also found that knowledge of their family history widened the Latino-white gap in colorectal cancer screening among adults.
While racial/ethnic disparities were more evident in colorectal cancer screening, the authors found no significant breast cancer screening disparities by race/ethnicity or income in the family history risk groups.
The researchers were unsure of the reasons the Latinos in the study had or had not gotten screened, but believe it may be due to communication issues and fear and anxiety about being screened.
Heather Orom, who was not part of this study, but studies racial disparities in cancer at the University at Buffalo, said, “It seems very plausible that this is not happening for Latinos because of access barriers and language barriers.” Adding, “we don’t know if those messages about family history and risk are resonating culturally with Latinos.”
The data came from a 2005 telephone survey of more than 30,000 adults under 65 in California. They were asked how recently they had been screened for breast cancer (with mammography) and colon cancer (with a stool test, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy), as well as whether anyone in their family had ever had those cancers—which would put them at higher risk.
The researchers, led by Ninez Ponce of the University of California, Los Angeles, used U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines at the time to determine if participants were getting screened according to recommendations.
That meant mammograms every two years for women starting at age 40, and colon cancer screening every one, five or ten years, depending on the method, for men and women 50 and older.
In total, about 76 percent of women with no family history of breast cancer and 84 percent with a family history had been screened for the disease within the recommended window. Latinas with or without a family history of breast cancer were just as likely as white women to report recent screening.
But for colon cancer, it was a different story. Fifty-one percent of all adults with no family history were screened according to guidelines, versus 71 percent who had a relative with colon cancer.
Compared with average-risk whites, Latinos with no family history of colon cancer were 26 percent less likely to say they had been screened. And those with a family history were 72 percent less likely than whites with a family history to get recommended screening.
In the U.S., Hispanics are no more likely than whites to be diagnosed with colon cancer or to die from it. The disease kills about 50,000 people each year nationwide.