New Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommendations Heralded
TALLAHASSEE, Florida ˗ Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s (FAMU) Center for Health Disparities Research heralds the new colorectal cancer screening recommendations by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
The USPSTF’s 2021 final recommendation statement on colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, published May 18, 2021, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, updates the panel’s 2016 CRC screening recommendations. The USPSTF is an independent body of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women, with an estimated total of 52,980 deaths in 2021. However, CRC is also one of the most treatable forms of cancer—if detected early by regular screening. “The importance of the USPSTF’s new CRC screening recommendations, most notably, the recommendation for all average-risk persons to begin screening at age 45, cannot be understated,” said Dr. John Luque, Associate Professor in FAMU’s Center for Health Disparities Research. Beginning screening at age 45 is also recommended by the American Cancer Society and American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons.
Regular screening starting at age 45 is important for all persons regardless of race/ethnicity. However, African Americans receive CRC screening at lower rates than White adults and this partially explains why African Americans experience the highest rates of CRC incidence and mortality compared to all other racial/ethnic groups.
In partnership with Big Bend Community Health Centers (Bond Community Health Center and Neighborhood Medical Center) and CRC screening experts from MUSC Hollings Cancer Center (Charleston, SC) and Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, FL), Dr. Luque is leading a multi-year CRC screening study funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study will assess whether a community health advisor educational intervention increases CRC screening among African Americans 45-64 years of age, compared to the usual approach to encourage screening.
Specifically, Luque explained, “we are investigating whether CRC screening with the stool-based test can be increased in this population for those who are not up-to-date, especially in light of the drop in preventive screenings due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” Luque added that stool-based tests such as the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) are effective, less costly, non-invasive, and often easier to access than colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for CRC screening in the United States, but it may be difficult for people who are uninsured or underinsured to access and some persons may be reluctant to receive colonoscopy due to fear or other factors, said Luque. “It is important to note that the new USPSTF recommendations emphasize the importance of providing patients with various approaches to screening to improve compliance with some form of screening. “As public health and medical professionals, we often say, ‘the best CRC screening is the one that gets done.’” Luque noted.
The FAMU Center for Health Disparities Research was established in 1985 through NIH funding mandated by Congress to support minority-serving institutions. Dr. Luque’s CRC screening study, the Test Up Now Education Program (TUNE-UP) is currently recruiting African Americans between 45 and 64 years of age who are out-of-date with their CRC screening. To participate, individuals must be patients of one of the two area community health centers, Bond Community Health Center or Neighborhood Medical Center. The collaborating health centers support the TUNE-UP project by processing participants’ FIT tests. Interested persons can learn if they qualify to participate in TUNE-UP by contacting the project coordinator, Matthew Vargas, at 850-766-3976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.