ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern Study Illustrates Racial, Ethnic Disparities in Colon Cancer Screening

Northwestern Medicine scientists have published what is believed to be the most complete and up-to-date picture of racial/ethnic disparities in America’s colorectal cancer screening rates. The second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, colorectal cancer is expected to kill more than 50,000 people this year. The findings were recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Although previous studies have demonstrated these national disparities, it was often difficult to interpret their findings,” said Dr. David Baker, chief of medicine-general internal medicine and geriatrics and senior author of the study. “For example, Hispanic or Latino patients were frequently compared to a broad ‘non-Hispanic’ group comprised of a mix of Whites and minorities.”


In an attempt to refine those statistics, Dr. Baker and Dr. David Liss, research assistant professor in  medicine-general internal medicine and geriatrics, used data from the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) – a large, national survey of health risk behaviors, clinical preventive services and health care access. Their analysis assessed colorectal cancer screening in over 200,000 BRFSS respondents in seven racial/ethnic categories: Whites, Blacks/African Americans, Asians, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaska Natives, Hispanic-English speakers and Hispanic-Spanish speakers.

Among them, the screening rate for White’s (62 percent) is more than double that of Spanish-speaking Hispanics (30.6 percent). After adjustment for socioeconomic factors and access to care, the screening rate for Whites remained 24 percent greater than Hispanic-Spanish speakers, and 22 percent greater than Asians.

The disparity between Whites and English-speaking Hispanics was much smaller. After using statistical models to adjust for differences in income, education and insurance, Hispanic-English speakers were only 6 percent less likely to be screened.

Read more on the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine website.

[Dr. David Baker and David Liss]