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Racially Diverse Older Adults Continue to Be Screened for Cancer

Racially Diverse Older Adults Continue to Be Screened for Cancer

A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut at Storrs and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), analyzing US national health data on more than 4,000 racially diverse adults aged 75 years and older, has concluded that despite “ambiguity of recommendations for this group,” cancer screening rates are high in this population.

Writing in the December 12/26, 2011 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, Keith M. Bellizzi, PhD, MPH, of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, and his coauthors said the aim of the study “was to establish prevalence estimates and correlates of cancer screening, including physician recommendation” for racially diverse adults aged 75 and older, since screening behaviors in this group are relatively unknown.

Dr. Bellizzi is an assistant professor in the university’s department of human development and family studies and an investigator in the UCONN Cancer Survivorship Research Program. He and his coauthors analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual, in-person, nationwide survey launched in 1957 to monitor health trends in the United States, including health status and healthcare access. A total of 49,575 people comprised the analytic sample, of whom 1,697 were 75–79 years old and 2,376 were aged 80 years or older. The authors assessed screening behaviors according to the US Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer screening.

They found that 57% of adults 75–79 years old had been screened for colorectal cancer. Among women in this age group, 62% were screened for breast cancer and 53% were screened for cervical cancer. Among the men, 56% were screened for prostate cancer. Among adults 80 years and older, screening rates ranged from 38% for cervical cancer to 50% for breast cancer. “Although unadjusted screening prevalence rates differed by race/ethnicity, these differences were accounted for by low education attainment in the multivariate logistic regression model,” Dr. Bellizzi and coauthors wrote. The greatest predictor of screening, they said, was physician recommendation for a specific test, adding that more than half of adults over 75 years of age reported that their physicians continue to recommend screening.

Dr. Bellizzi’s coauthors are Erica S. Breslau, PhD, MPH, and Allison Burness, BSN, both from the Process of Care Research Branch of NCI’s Behavioral Research Program, and William Waldron, MS, a senior programmer with Information Management Services, Inc., in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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