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Cancer Screening Rates Decline in U.S.

Study shows differences between white-collar and blue-collar workers (Dec. 27)

The rate at which people seek preventive cancer screenings has fallen over the last ten years in the U.S., with wide variations between white-collar and blue-collar workers, according to a study conducted at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The results were published in Frontiers in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention.

While earlier diagnoses and improved treatments have increased the number of cancer survivors, cancer remains one of the most prominent chronic diseases, claiming 570,000 lives in the U.S. last year.

“There is a great need for increased cancer prevention efforts in the U.S., especially for screening, as it is considered one of the most important preventive behaviors and helps decrease the burden of this disease on society in terms of quality of life, the number of lives lost, and insurance costs,” said lead author Tainya Clarke, MPH. “But despite this, our research has shown that adherence rates for cancer screenings have generally declined, with severe implications for the health outlook of our society.”

Clarke and her colleagues evaluated the cancer-screening behaviors of the general public and of cancer survivors to see whether government-recommended screenings goals were achieved. The study looked at cancer-screening adherence rates for colorectal, breast, cervical, and prostate cancers and compared the screening rates among the general public with rates among cancer survivors and a subpopulation of employed survivors.

The results showed that the general public did not meet government goals for cancer screenings for any cancer types except colorectal cancer. Approximately 54% of the general public underwent colorectal screenings, exceeding the 50% goal of the government’s "Healthy People 2010" national health promotion and disease prevention initiative.

In contrast, cancer survivors — who are at increased risk of developing the disease — had higher screening rates and underwent the recommended cancer screenings for all types of cancer except cervical cancer, which decreased to 78% over the last decade. The study also showed a decline among cancer survivors who sought cancer screenings during the last 3 years.

The researchers used the recommended cancer screening rates set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2010. A total of 174,393 people were included in the study analysis.

In addition, the study showed that, among cancer survivors, white-collar workers had higher screening rates than had blue-collar workers — a discovery that Clarke hopes will help change current job-related policies and overcome disparities within different professions of working cancer survivors.

The researchers speculated that ongoing disagreements among the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and others over screening guidelines, as well as the decrease in worker insurance rates over the past decade, may have influenced the decline in screening rates.

Source: University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; December 27, 2012.

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