Racial Clusters Seem to Affect Access to Colon Care

U.S. areas with more black residents lack specialists, study shows

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TUESDAY, June 16, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans appear to have less access to colorectal cancer specialists, which means they may be less likely to receive timely and appropriate treatments, researchers say.

In a study that analyzed population and health data from all 3,219 counties in the United States, the research team found that the higher the population of blacks in a county, the lower the number of specialists who diagnose and treat colorectal cancer. In contrast, counties with a greater population of Asian Americans were found to have more colorectal cancer specialists.

The study is in the June issue of Archives of Surgery.

"What is significant about this is that the federal government has set out a plan to eliminate disparities in health care access by 2010," the study's author, Dr. Awori J. Hayanga, a resident at the University of Michigan, said in a news release from the school.

"The structure of health care varies from county to county," Hayanga said. "Some counties have much more than they need, and others have much less than they need. There is a geographical hurdle that has to be overcome, and it has to do with the way racial groups are clustered."

Blacks are more likely than other Americans to die of colorectal cancer, the researchers noted.

In another study, published in the June issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Hayanga looked at access to surgical care by blacks and Hispanics in the United States.

It found that in counties with the highest levels of segregation, an increase in the number of black or Hispanic residents in the population was associated with a decrease in the availability and use of surgical services and greater use of emergency departments.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about race and colorectal cancer.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, June 15, 2009

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