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Cancer Screening in America below National Targets

Fewer Americans receive cancer screenings compared to the government’s target screening rates, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. The study found that in 2010, breast cancer screening rates were 72.4 percent, below the target of 81 percent; cervical cancer screening was 83 percent, below the target of 93 percent; and colorectal cancer screening was 58.6 percent, below the target of 70.5 percent. Moreover, there were significant racial and ethnic differences in screening rates.

Healthy People 2020 sets national objectives for use of the recommended cancer screening tests and uses the National Health Interview Survey to measure progress in cancer screening. Researchers analyzed data from the 2010 Survey to assess use of the recommended tests by age, race, ethnicity, education, length of U.S. residence, and source, and looked at financial issues of those who did not follow the recommended screenings.

Upon examination of racial and ethnic factors, the researchers found that screening rates for all three cancers were significantly lower among Asians (64.1 percent for breast cancer, 75.4 percent for cervical cancer, and 46.9 percent for colorectal cancer) compared to other groups, the study found.  Hispanics were less likely to be screened for cervical and colorectal cancer (78.7 percent and 46.5 percent, respectively) when compared to non-Hispanics (83.8 percent and 59.9 percent, respectively).

“It is troubling to see that not all Americans are getting the recommended cancer screenings and that disparities continue to persist for certain populations. Screening can find breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective,” said Sallyann Coleman King, M.D., of the CDC, who served as lead author of the study, in a CDC news release. “We must continue to monitor cancer screening rates to improve the health of all Americans.”

Specific findings of the study included the following:

Screening rates for breast cancer remained relatively stable and varied no more than 3 percent over the period 2000-2010.

  • From 2000-2010, colorectal cancer screening rates increased markedly for men and women, with the rate for women increasing slightly faster so that rates among both sexes were nearly identical (58.5 percent for men and 58.8 percent for women) in 2010.
  • From 2000-2010, a small but statistically significant downward trend of 3.3 percent was observed in the rate of women who reported getting a Pap test within the last three years.
  • Considerably lower breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening use was reported by those without any usual source of health care or health insurance.

 Source: CDC

“Our study points to the particular need for finding ways to increase the use of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening tests among Asians, Hispanics, as well as adults who lack health insurance or a usual source of health care” said co-author Carrie Klabunde, Ph.D., in a CDC news release.

Through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, the CDC provides low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women access to timely breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and 12 American Indian/Alaska Native tribes or tribal organizations. The CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program funds 25 states and four tribal organizations to implement population-based approaches to increase screening among men and women aged 50 years and older. Population-based approaches include policy and health systems change, outreach, case management, and selective provision of screening services. For information about CDC efforts to prevent cancer, visit


 The study, “Cancer Screening — United States, 2010,” was published in the January 27, 2012 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,

  • The January 26, 2012 CDC news release, “Study finds racial and ethnic disparities in US cancer screening rates,” was published on the CDC web site,