Study finds US cancer screening rates falling

First Posted: Dec 28, 2012 01:03 PM EST

The last 15 years have been a period of declining cancer screening rates among the US population, with severe implication for the future health, according to a study published on Dec. 27 by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The study by lead author Tainya Clarke, M.P.H., research associate in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health can be found in the open-access journal Frontiers in Cancer Epidemiology.

Cancer tops the list of the most severe chronic diseases and claimed the lives of more than 570,000 people in the U.S. in 2011 alone, even though earlier diagnoses and improved treatments have increased the number of survivors.

"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 Clarke.

"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 team looked at cancer screening adherence rates for colorectal, breast, cervical and prostate cancers and compared the screening rates among the general public to all cancer survivors and to the subpopulation of employed survivors.

Their results showed that the general public did not meet government recommendations for cancer screenings for any cancer types except colorectal cancer.

About 54 percent of the general public underwent colorectal screenings, exceeding the 50 percent goal of the government's "Healthy People 2010" national health promotion and disease prevention initiative.

On the other hand the study found that cancer survivors, who are at an increased risk of developing the disease, had higher screening rates and underwent the recommended cancer screenings for all types except cervical cancer, which decreased to 78 percent over the last decade.

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