Racial inequalities complicate colorectal cancer treatment

As a stage 3 colon cancer survivor diagnosed at age 48 I feel that a recent HuffPo piece about a small (.05%) increase in colorectal cancer deaths among young white males is somewhat misleading because it doesn't discuss the fact that, in spite of some recent gains, a disparity continues to exist to wit that African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers, including colon cancer among men because they often can't afford treatmnent or lack access to it.

The coverage, by senior healthy living editor Erin Schumaker, and the TV segments that are part of it, fail to address what the American Cancer Society identifies as the most important issue facing colorectal cancer treatment today, namely, reducing inequalities and ensuring equitable high-quality treatment for all patients.

The only black face in the coverage was that of a female television moderator, who introduced a video segment. All the patients and doctors interviewed in the coverage were middle class white folks.

In one video segment, Emmy-winning anchor Corrina Pysa of WEWS-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, described colon cancer as being “still pretty rare.”

However, according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is “the second leading cause for cancer-related deaths in the United States among women and the third leading cause in men.”

The study discussed in Schumaker's piece said that colorectal cancer death rates among white males over a ten year period (2004-2014) increased from 3.6 per thousand to 4.1 per thousand and in a subhead noted that no one knows what's driving the increase or racial disparity.

When juxtaposed with the 50,260 deaths that the American Cancer Society expects to be caused by colorectal cancer this year that ten year increase amounts to roughly an additional 206 deaths, or one half of one percent.

That's 52 less than the 258 black people HuffPo civil rights reporter Julia Craven (via The Guardian) reported were killed by police in America last year.

The last time I blogged about colorectal cancer on HuffPo was back in 2013, when I noted that colon cancer screening is “up to you.” It still is.

With the American Cancer Society predicting 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 cases of rectal cancer this year it's time to focus on the challenge of affordable and accesible treatment rather than the small uptick in deaths among young white males that even NBC News is reporting that the experts can’t figure out.

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