Racial Disparities in Stage-Specific Colorectal Cancer Mortality

U.S. Blacks with colorectal cancer are increasingly more likely to die than their White peers diagnosed at similar stages of the disease, probably due to differences in care, according to this analysis of national data from the past four decades.

Although colorectal cancer mortality rates have declined, it is known that racial disparities have increased. This study examined data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Cancer Institute to determine whether racial disparities in stage-specific survival rates changed between 1960 and 2005.

Key Findings:

  • White men and women actually had higher colorectal mortality rates than their Black counterparts until the 1970s.
  • Over the past four decades, changes in colorectal mortality rates have differed widely by race and gender. While the rate of colorectal cancer mortality declined by 54 percent between 1960 and 2005 for White women, the relative rate declined by only 14 percent for Black women. The corresponding rate decreased by 39 percent for White men, while it actually increased by 28 percent for Black men.
  • During this time period, stage-specific survival rates were lower for Blacks than for Whites; across all age groups; stages of cancer; and for both genders.
  • The stage-specific survival rate disparities between Blacks and Whites worsened in all groups over the time period.
  • Stage-specific survival rate disparities translated into differences in life expectancy for Black and White colorectal cancer patients. These differences are worsening over time across all age groups, stages of cancer, and for both genders during this time period.

Analysis suggests to the researchers that race is likely a proxy for socioeconomic variables, which in turn translates into access and quality of care received. The authors believe that the worsening racial difference in mortality rates should make an examination of racial differences in management of colorectal cancer a priority.