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Black patients with early-onset colorectal cancer received worse and less timely care than White patients, new study shows

Researchers stress the need to dismantle structural racism and advance health equity.

In a new, large national hospital-based study, researchers at ACS found individuals racialized as Black in the United States with early-onset colorectal cancer received worse and less timely, guideline-concordant care than individuals racialized as White. This cancer care included surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. The study pointed to health insurance, a modifiable factor, as the largest contributor to racial disparities in receipt of guideline-concordant care. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO).

“Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and the incidence and mortality rates among young adults are rising,” said Dr. Leticia Nogueira, scientific director, health services research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “Research also shows young Black individuals are more likely to die after a colorectal cancer diagnosis than White individuals. This is why addressing racial disparities is so important to ensure everyone receives needed, timely treatment to help battle this disease.”

“With health insurance being the largest modifiable factor contributing to racial disparities in this study, it’s critical to eliminate this barrier,” added Nogueira. “Expanding access to health insurance coverage could help improve colorectal care and outcomes from individuals of all racialized groups.”

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) advocates for policy solutions that help improve access to high-quality, affordable care, including Medicaid expansion. The health coverage provided by Medicaid helps improve health outcomes and helps reduce the burden of cancer by offering access to timely prevention and early detection services, as well as affordable treatment and care.

“Lack of access to high quality, affordable and timely care is a leading contributor to the significant cancer disparities Black people experience,” said Lisa A. Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “We urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid in the 10 states that haven’t already done so to help reduce colorectal cancer disparities and move us closer to our vision of ending cancer as we know it, for everyone.”

ACS researcher Rebecca Siegel is senior author of the study and Dr. Robin Yabroff is a contributing author.

Dr. Nogueira also spoke with Healio about the news.

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