Researchers Identify 3 US Hot Spots With High Colorectal Cancer Death Rates

While a better understanding has led to a drop in the colorectal cancer death rate by half, the progress made in the last few decades has not been equal across the United States, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

While a better understanding has led to a drop in the colorectal cancer death rate by half, the progress made in the last few decades has not been equal across the United States, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Researchers identified areas with high rates and areas with low rates of colorectal cancer deaths and found that large differences exist among states. Death rates were plotted from 1970 to 2011 and ratios were calculated to compare trends over time.

“We expanded on an earlier state-level analysis by using a geospatial software tool to identify clusters of counties in the United States that have unnecessarily high colorectal cancer death rates,” lead author Rebecca Siegel, MPH, director of surveillance information in the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program at the American Cancer Society, explained in a statement.

The investigators were able to identify 3 distinct hot spots with higher rates of colorectal cancer deaths: the lower Mississippi Delta, west central Appalachia, and eastern Virginia/North Carolina. In the Mississippi Delta in 2009 to 2011, the death rate was 40% higher than nonhot spot areas. The difference was less in the Appalachia (18% higher) and Virginia/North Carolina (9%) regions.

“These areas are low-hanging fruit for colorectal cancer screening interventions,” Siegel said.

From 1970 to 1990, the colorectal cancer death rate has steadily increased by 3.5% annually among black men in the lower Mississippi Delta. However, death rates have begun to decrease for other population groups in the area, according to Siegel.

“Although we’ve made great strides against colorectal cancer in a fairly short time period, there are a lot of vulnerable populations that aren’t benefiting,” Siegel said. “Now that these groups have been identified, there is a moral obligation to do something about it. Targeted interventions, like using people within the community to talk to their neighbors about screening, are likely to be effective.”