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Blacks and Hispanics at Higher Risk for Precancerous Colorectal Polyps

Update Date: May 06, 2012 06:02 PM EDT

Blacks and Hispanics have a significantly higher risk of developing precancerous colorectal polyps compared with whites, according to a study by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

The study also found that blacks and Hispanics have a higher risk of developing polyps in the upper portion of the colon, compared with whites.

"Our data suggest that we need to redouble our efforts to increase colon cancer screening in areas with large numbers of racial and ethnic minorities," said lead author Benjamin Lebwohl, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical medicine.

In the current study, the first to compare adenomas in white, blacks, and Hispanics, the investigators analyzed data from 5,075 men and women age 50 or older who underwent first-time colonoscopy at NewYork - Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center from 2006 to 2010. None of the subjects had signs or symptoms of colon cancer at the time of screening.

At least one adenoma was detected in 19 percent of whites, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 26 percent of blacks, the researchers reported.

The researchers looked specifically at rates of advanced adenomas — polyps 10 mm or larger that exhibited aggressive features under microscopic examination.

"These are the kinds of polyps that we are most concerned may eventually develop into cancer," said Fay Kastrinos, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical medicine at NewYor-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "We found that blacks and Hispanics were roughly twice as likely to have advanced adenomas, compared with whites, after adjusting for factors such as age and family history."

Colorectal cancer caused an estimated 51,370 deaths in 2010 - the last year for which data are available. This type of cancer is largely preventable if caught early, in the form of precancerous polyps, or adenomas. Such polyps are effectively treated with removal during colonoscopy.

Doctors generally advise patients to get an initial screening test at age 50, when overall rates of colon cancer begin to increase.

The study was published in the online edition of Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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