Researchers: Colorectal screening 'woefully underused'

Why are too many mammograms being performed and too few colonoscopies? That was the question asked by researchers at the recent annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

The researchers presented two studies to support their argument, according to an article in Live Science.

The first study looked at over 600 women in their 40s, mostly from rural areas of the U.S. The researchers found that while two-thirds of the women had a mammogram in the past year, just 1 percent were familiar with the United States Preventive Services Task Force guidelines that recommend that women under 50 forego mammograms unless they are at high risk for breast cancer.

The other study looked at colonoscopy rates of African-Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 and found that despite patient follow-ups and providing reminders about the importance of colorectal screening exams, just 38 percent underwent screening. This is particularly significant considering that the incidence of colon cancer is so high among African-Americans.

"We know there are disparities in incidence, mortality and stage in underserved populations who could benefit from the use of colonoscopy or any type of colorectal cancer screening," Electra Paskett, associate director for population sciences at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, said during the presentation. "Contrast that to breast cancer screening, specifically mammography, where there are guideline changes that indicate according to those guidelines that mammography is being overused."

Paskett called colorectal screening "woefully underused."

Last November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that about one out of every three adults between the ages of 50 and 75 years old was not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended.

Meanwhile, a review of 50-plus years of literature on the benefits and risks of mammography published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that while screening mammograms may reduce breast cancer mortality, the benefits of mammography are less--and the potential harms greater--than had once been expected.

To learn more:
- read the article in Live Science
- see the study on mammography
- see the study on colorectal cancer screening