(BlackDoctor.org) — Cancer of the colon or rectum is the third most common type of cancer in African American men and the second most common type in African American women. The American College of Gastroenterologists has issued new guidelines for African Americans regarding screening for colon cancer. Noting that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer at a younger age, they are suggesting that African Americans begin getting colonoscopies at age 45 – 5 years earlier than whites. Colon cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among African Americans. The College hopes that earlier screening could detect colon problems at a more treatable stage.
- African Americans should be screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 45 — five years earlier than other people, according to new guidelines issued by the American College of Gastroenterology.
- The advice is in response to previous findings that African Americans have earlier onset of the disease and higher incidence and mortality rates than whites.
- Experts suspect that the increased mortality rates may be due, at least in part, to inadequate access to health care and lack of proper screening, which allows doctors to detect and remove polyps that could become cancerous.
- The report containing the new guidelines, which appears in the March edition of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, says most African Americans should undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 45.
- A colonoscopy allows physicians to visually examine the entire colon and remove polyps that might turn cancerous.
- For those considered to be at higher risk because of family history or previous polyps, testing may be recommended even earlier or more frequently.
- African American men were 10 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer than white men from 1997 to 2001, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
- What experts don’t fully understand is why African Americans have lower rates of screening for colorectal cancer and higher rates of diagnoses than other groups.
- Research shows that African Americans often develop cancer in the part of the colon that sits on the right side of the body, which a sigmoidoscopy would not detect.
- “The concern is that we recommend screening [only] part of the colon,” said Duane Smoot, chairman of the Department of Medicine at Howard University School of Medicine.
- It took many years and several cancer groups’ recommendations before insurance companies and Medicare began to pay for colonoscopies.