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A team of researchers led by Stacey Fedewa of the American Cancer Society tracked data from the National Health Interview Survey. They found that overall colon cancer screening rates among people ages 50 to 75 rose from about 57 percent in 2008 to about 61 percent in 2013. The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
The increase was typically seen among people who had low incomes, low levels of education and were covered by Medicare, but not among wealthier people, the study found.
Between 2003 and 2008 -- before the Affordable Care Act -- there was also a large rise in colon cancer screening among people with private insurance and Medicare coverage, but that increase occurred across all socioeconomic groups, Fedewa's team noted.
While the study couldn't prove cause and effect, the recent increase in colon cancer screening rates could be due to the removal of financial barriers to screening after health care reform, the researchers said.
Fedewa and her team also tracked breast cancer screening rates among women 40 and older. They found that rates stayed the same between 2008 and 2013. This may be due to a number of factors, including already high screening rates and lower cost, the researchers said.
The findings were published online June 4 in the journal Cancer.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, June 4, 2015