University of Nebraska Medical Center


white coats for black lives

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Many disparities with a variety of different cancers exist among ethnic groups in the United States. Overall, colorectal cancer (CRC) is not only one of the most common cancers diagnosed in the United States, but also has one of the highest mortality rates (Tramontano et al., 2020).

However, when considering different rates among ethnic groups, Black people/African Americans have the highest incidence rates and highest mortality rates among any ethnic group in the U.S.; they are as much as 20% more likely to get CRC and 40% more likely to die from it compared to other ethnic groups (Zavala et al., 2021).

The ethnic differences in outcomes may be due to a variety of factors including environmental stressors, lower screening rates, and less healthcare accessibility (Buehler et al., 2019; Zavala et al., 2021). 

CRC disproportionately affects Black people so much so that many experts suggest that colon cancer screening for Black people begin at the age of 45 rather than the standard age of 50 (Augustus & Ellis, 2018).

The video below is Will Smith’s vlog where he records his CRC screening experience, and it is discovered that he had precancerous colon polyp which was removed during the procedure.

I Vlogged My Colonscopy

Unfortunately, unlike Will Smith’s case, CRC can be much more advanced when initially detected, and this leads to poorer outcomes. This was seen with the actor Chadwick Boseman. This video briefly covers the passing of the actor from his ongoing battle with metastatic colon cancer in 2020.

Doctor explains colon cancer following Chadwick Boseman's death

These cases highlight the importance of raising awareness of these ethnic disparities and encouraging more efforts to increase screening rates and access to healthcare, especially in the Black community.

If you would like to read more about the ethnic disparities seen with CRC in the United States, the following links cover more information. 

Check out what UNMC is doing to help improve colon cancer screening in the African American community.