TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- While more Americans are
being screened for colon and breast cancer than ever before,
millions aren't getting the tests and thousands are dying
needlessly as a result, according to U.S. health officials.
Two new reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention find that rates of recommended screening for colon
cancer have risen from 52 percent of adults in 2002 to 63 percent
in 2008. And, by 2008, just over 81 percent of women aged 50 to 74
were getting mammograms as recommended, about the same level as in
However, the CDC said that 7 million women who should have had a
mammogram recently have gone without the potentially lifesaving
screen, and 22 million Americans who should have undergone colon
cancer screening have not done so.
"Most deaths from colon cancer could be prevented by screening technologies that are available today," CDC Director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a press briefing to announce the new findings.
"We are encouraged by increases in colon cancer screening rates over the years," he added.
According to Frieden, some of the increase in the screening
rates for colon cancer is due to the attention brought to the
CBS News anchor Katie Couric, whose 2004 on-air colonoscopy
highlighted the disease and the test. Couric lost her husband Jay
Monahan to colon cancer in 1998.
"Nevertheless, there is a lot more progress we could make with colon cancer screening," Frieden said. "There are more than 20 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 who need to be screened, who have not been screened. If they were [screened] that would save thousands of deaths per year."
In terms of breast cancer, there has been a leveling off of
breast cancer screening rates in recent years, Frieden said.
"We know that mammography does prevent breast cancer and prevent the spread of breast cancer and saves lives, so we want to see that continue to increase," he said.
Speaking at the press briefing, Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of
CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, noted that there
are several barriers that prevent some people from being screened
for these cancers.
"There are a number of disparities," he said. "Disparities based on race and ethnicity, disparities based on lack of insurance, and disparities based across geographic regions."
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in
the United States, after lung cancer, and breast cancer is the most
commonly found cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths
among U.S. women, according to the CDC.
Other highlights from the reports include:
For colorectal cancer screening:
- People with health insurance are more likely to be screened
than the uninsured (66 percent to 36 percent, respectively).
- Colorectal screening varied by state from 74 percent in
Massachusetts to 53 percent in Oklahoma.
- The highest rates of colorectal cancer screening were in the
Northeast (74 percent in Maine, Delaware, and Massachusetts).
- The lowest rates were in the Ccntral and western regions,
(Oklahoma 53 percent, Arkansas 53 percent and Idaho 54
- Screening rates were low among all racial and ethnic minorities
except for blacks.
- Other factors associated with low screening rates include low
income (48 percent) and having less than a high school education
For breast cancer screening:
- The lowest rates of breast cancer screening were among American
Indian and Alaska Native women (70 percent).
- Screening rates were lower among women with less than a high
school education (73 percent), and low income women (69
- Mammography rates were lowest in the western and southern
states of Nevada (72 percent), Mississippi (72 percent), and Idaho
- More insured women were screened than uninsured women (84
percent versus 56 percent).
- However, even 16 percent of insured women did not have an
Screening is an important life-saving tool, the CDC said. In
2006, more than 139,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were
diagnosed and more than 53,000 people died from this cancer.
Screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be
removed before they turn into cancer. Screening can also detect
colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment is most
effective, according to the CDC.
In 2006, more than 191,000 women were diagnosed with invasive
breast cancer and more than 40,000 died from the disease.
Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it is
easiest to treat.
The new reports find that a doctor's recommendation for
screening is an important -- yet underused -- motivator.
Encouraging doctors to prioritize cancer screening would greatly
boost testing rates, the CDC said.
For more on colon and breast cancer, visit the