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Cancer. 2008 Jan 15;112(2):391-8.

Racial differences in colorectal cancer screening practices and knowledge within a low-income population.

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  • 1Division of Health Services Management and Policy, College of Public Health, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.



Although colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third leading cause of cancer death among US women and is particularly deadly among African Americans, CRC screening rates remain low. Within a low-income population of women, the authors examined racial differences in practices, knowledge, and barriers related to CRC screening.


Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 941 women (white, n= 186; African American, n= 755) older than age 50 years who were living in subsidized housing communities in 11 cities in North and South Carolina. Women were asked questions about their CRC screening history and their knowledge and beliefs concerning CRC screening.


Half (49%) of the women interviewed were within CRC screening guidelines, and this did not vary by race (P= .17). However, African American women were half as likely as white women to report having had a screening colonoscopy within the past 10 years (odds ratio [OR], 0.46; P< .001). Awareness of tests for CRC was low overall (39%) and was lower among African Americans than whites (OR, 0.44; P< .001). Compared with white women, African American women were less likely to report embarrassment as a barrier (OR, 0.59; P= .008) and more likely to report lack of insurance coverage (OR, 1.75; P= .098).


Efforts must continue to increase women's knowledge of both CRC screening tests and colon cancer risk factors. Among these low-income women, routine encounters with the healthcare system may present opportunities to reduce deficits in CRC knowledge and to improve overall CRC screening rates.

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