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WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- In the United States, 29 percent of people with colon cancer are diagnosed after an emergency, such as an obstruction or perforation of the bowel, according to new research.
A study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas also revealed that blacks and those in high-poverty areas are more likely than others to be diagnosed with colon cancer in an emergency situation. The researchers noted when cancer diagnoses are delayed until an emergency arises, the risk for complications and death increases.
"Overall, there are high rates of emergency presentation of colorectal cancer in the United States," said Sandi Pruitt, assistant professor in the university's department of clinical sciences.
"Screening for colorectal cancer using tests including colonoscopy is recommended for all healthy, asymptomatic adults starting at age 50," Pruitt said. "But these high rates of emergencies indicate that there are multiple missed opportunities for screening."
For the study, the researchers analyzed national data collected between 1992 and 2005 on adults aged 66 and older with advanced colon cancer.
Of the nearly 89,000 patients identified, 29 percent were diagnosed following an emergency. Of these, about 81 percent required hospitalization -- 32 percent because of bowel obstructions and 4 percent with bowel perforations.
After taking factors such as the stage of cancer and overall health into account, the researchers noted that black people were 29 percent more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer in an emergency and those living in poverty-stricken areas were 10 percent more likely to be diagnosed under these circumstances.
"We already know that African-Americans and economically disadvantaged populations face an increased risk for death from colorectal cancer," Pruitt said. "In future research, we will attempt to understand how emergency presentation of colorectal cancer contributes to racial and economic disparities in death from colorectal cancer."
Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer among U.S. adults. It is estimated that nearly 52,000 people will die of it this year.
The study was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the annual cancer prevention conference of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Anaheim, Calif.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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