Not only are relatively few Americans screened for cancer, but there are considerable disparities between ethnic and racial groups in the country, says a new report issued by NCI (National Cancer Institute) and the CDCF (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The authors added that screening rates are especially low among Hispanic and Asian Americans.

The report is called "Cancer Screening in the United States - 2010."

The Healthy People 2020 target of 81% screening rate for breast cancer was not met in 2010, which reached 72.4%. The achieved rate for cervical cancer was 83% compared to the 93% target, and colorectal cancer was 58.6% compared to a target of 70.5%.

Below are some highlighted data about screening rates among Asians and Hispanics in 2010:

  • 64.1% - breast cancer
  • 75.4% - cervical cancer
  • 46.9% - colorectal cancer

  • 64.3% - breast cancer
  • 78.7 % - cervical cancer
  • 46.5% - colorectal cancer

US Navy 080922-N-2688M-004 Lead Mammography Technologist Carmen Waters assists a patient
A female patient undergoing a mammography (breast cancer screening)

Lead author, Sallyann Coleman King, M.D., said:

"It is troubling to see that not all Americans are getting the recommended cancer screenings and that disparities continue to persist for certain populations. Screening can find breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective. We must continue to monitor cancer screening rates to improve the health of all Americans."

The aim of Healthy People 2020 is to set national targets for the overall health of US citizens. Among the targets are cancer screening rates which have been recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force for colorectal, cervical and breast cancers.

Some of the Task Force's recommendations include:
  • Breast cancer - a mammogram (breast cancer screening) for females between 50 and 74 years every two years
  • Cervical cancer - females aged 21-65 should be screened every three years (at least) with a Pap test
  • Cervical cancer - females who have been sexually active for three years should have a Pap test for cervical cancer once every three years (at least)
  • Colorectal cancer - average risk males and females aged 50 to 75 years should be screened using high-sensitivity FOBT (fecal occult blood test) at home annually.
  • Colorectal cancer - average risk males and females aged 50 to 75 years should be screened using sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Colorectal cancer - average risk males and females aged 50 to 75 years should undergo a colonoscopy every 10 years
The authors reported that breast cancer screening rates overall remained stable and varied by less than 3% over the decade up to 2010.

The number of adult females undergoing a Pap test dropped by 3.3% during the decade up to 2010.

Screening rates were considerably lower for people with no health insurance, or inadequate health insurance.

The report urges US authorities to address the cancer screening disparities by improved monitoring and tracking.

Co-author, Carrie Klabunde, Ph.D., said:

"Healthy People objectives are important for monitoring progress toward reducing the burden of cancer in the United States. Our study points to the particular need for finding ways to increase the use of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening tests among Asians, Hispanics, as well as adults who lack health insurance or a usual source of health care."

The Affordable Care Act is supposed to make it financially easier for those with no insurance coverage to become insured, the authors added.

Written by Christian Nordqvist