Background: Colon carcinoma incidence rates have risen sharply over the second half of this century, particularly among males and blacks. In the late 1970s, incidence rates among whites began to decline for distant disease. Approximately 10 years later regional disease rates began to fall. The decline in incidence rates among whites largely has been attributed to more widespread colorectal carcinoma screening. However, similar trends by stage in blacks have not been observed.
Methods: The incidence of colorectal carcinoma was evaluated by race, gender, age, and stage of disease for each subsite using data from > 220,000 cases diagnosed between 1975 and 1994 in the U. S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program.
Results: Recent data have continued to show a decrease in incidence rates of total colorectal carcinoma in whites since the mid-1980s, particularly for the distal colon and rectum. Overall, proximal colon carcinoma rates were higher than distal colon or rectal carcinoma rates throughout the study period. Proximal colon carcinoma rates in blacks were considerably higher than in whites and continued to increase, whereas rates in whites showed signs of declining. The age-specific and stage-specific trends for proximal colon carcinoma in blacks were not consistent with the possibility of earlier disease detection through screening.
Conclusions: Etiologic studies are necessary to understand the large increases in the incidence of proximal colon carcinoma among blacks.