(BlackDoctor.org) — Even when there is a family history of colon cancer, blacks are much less likely to get colonoscopies than their white counterparts are, a new study finds.
While blacks who have an increased chance of developing colon cancer continue to lag behind their white counterparts in colonoscopy rates, the lack of a doctor referral stood out as the primary reason why high-risk patients of either race had not been screened.
For people who have close relatives that have been diagnosed with colon cancer, the recommended screening is a colonoscopy every five years after the age of 40.
“People with a family history of colon cancer have a two to four times increased risk of developing the disease compared with people who don’t have such a history,” explained lead researcher Dr. Harvey J. Murff, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
“When you look at people who have more than one close relative diagnosed with colon cancer, African-Americans were about half as likely to have reported undergoing the appropriately recommended screening as compared to whites,” Murff said.
The reasons for this disparity aren’t clear, Murff said. It could be that doctors don’t perceive blacks as having an increased risk for colon cancer, he speculated. It may also be that doctors are remiss in collecting a complete family medical history, he said.
“If providers aren’t aware of family history, they may be less likely to recommend the test,” Murff said. “There is a problem collecting family history and using it to risk-assess patients.”