Study highlights racial disparity in deaths from colon cancer
A new study may provide insight as to why blacks are more likely to die of colon cancer than their white counterparts.
Blacks with colon cancer are half as likely as whites to a have a certain type of colon cancer linked to better outcomes, according to a University of Michigan Health System study. Those black patients were also more likely to have cancer on the right side of the colon.
“Polyps on the right side of the colon can be flatter than the left side,” says Dr. Deepak Khurana, gastroenterologist on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “Due to the flatness, they are more likely to be missed.”
For the population-based study, researchers identified 503 patients with colon cancer through the North Carolina Colon Cancer Study. The group was 45 percent black and 55 percent white, and tissue samples were taken at the time of surgery and assessed for various genetic markers, including microsatellite instability (MSI).
MSI tumors are known to be resistant to the chemotherapy, but even without chemotherapy, patients tend to have better outcomes.
Researchers found that 14 percent of whites and 7 percent of blacks had the genetic marker MSI, according to the study. The lesser frequency of MSI among black colon cancers may suggest that it may in part contribute toward the higher mortality rate from colon cancer.
“Going forward, we need to monitor further studies to see if additional testing is warranted,” says Dr. Khurana. “A screening colonoscopy is the best way to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer and save lives.”
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