The death of popular “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman from colon cancer at age 43 highlights a fact about the disease not often headlined.
African Americans are at higher risk for poorer outcomes associated with this type of cancer, given current screening recommendations that have benefited those 50 and older, and incidences of the disease continue to increase in younger people.
African Americans have the highest rate of mortality as well as the shortest rate of survival for colorectal cancer compared to all racial groups, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates colorectal cancer as the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
African Americans are also said to be more often diagnosed at a younger age with it and with a diagnosis at a more advanced stage.
Boseman was said to have been diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, and that it had advanced from stage III to stage IV at the time of his death.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 years. This recommendation from June 2016 has a final research plan that was posted to the site a year ago to investigate whether there is clinical evidence going forward to support expanding screening to age 40.
The USPSTF’s recommendations are important as federal law requires private insurers and Medicare to cover tests the independent panel of experts recommends.
According to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021,” colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in African Americans.
The death rates from this cancer of the large intestine and rectum are said to be 47 percent higher in non-Hispanic black men and 34 percent higher in non-Hispanic black women compared to non-Hispanic white men and women.
Reasons include failure to received best practices in treatment as well as lower survival rates at every stage of treatment. ACS researchers also concluded that “access to care, as indicated by insurance status, accounted for half of the survival disparity in black and white patients under 65.”
The American College of Gastroenterology has, since 2005, recommended that African Americans at average risk for colorectal cancer begin to be screened for the disease at 45 because of the traditionally higher mortality rates associated with this population and the better outcomes associated with early detection.
In the last two years, the American Cancer Society issued a recommendation that people at average risk for colorectal cancer start screening at 45.
Screening with either a high-sensitivity stool-based test or a structural visual examination, such as a colonoscopy, is recommended with any positive results on the former followed up with a colonoscopy.
Most colorectal cancers begin as slow growing benign growths called polyps that develop on the lining of the colon, and that can be detected and removed during a colonscopy.
While statistics show similar survival rates for African Americans and whites when colorectal cancer is found in a localized stage as well as in clinical trials when given similar therapies for more advanced stages, African American survival rates overall remain the lowest for this cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society’s report, “Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022,” the five-year survival rate for all stages of colorectal cancer between the years 2009 and 2015 for non-Hispanic whites was 66 percent; non-Hispanic blacks, 60 percent; Asian and Pacific Islanders, 68 percent; American Indian and Alaskan Natives, 63 percent; and Hispanic, 65 percent.
‘Black Panther’ and ’42′ star Chadwick Boseman dies of colon cancer at 43
Oncologist: Earlier colorectal screening saves lives
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