Presence and correlates of racial disparities in adherence to colorectal cancer screening guidelines

J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Mar;26(3):251-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-010-1575-7. Epub 2010 Nov 18.


Objectives: We examined the presence and correlates of Black/White racial disparities in adherence to guidelines for colorectal cancer screening (CRCS).

Methods: The sample included 328 Black and 1827 White patients age 50-75 from 24 VA medical facilities who responded to a mailed survey with phone follow-up (response rate: 73% for Blacks and 89% for Whites). CRCS adherence and race were obtained through surveys and supplemented with administrative data. Logistic regressions estimated the contribution of demographic, health, cognitive, and environmental factors to racial disparities in adherence to CRCS guidelines.

Results: In unadjusted analyses, Blacks had slightly lower rates of adherence to CRCS guidelines than Whites (72% versus 77%, p<0.05). This racial disparity in CRCS adherence was explained by race differences in demographic, health, and environmental factors but not by cognitive factors. Tests for interactions revealed that the association of race with adherence varied significantly across levels of income, education, and marital status. In particular, among those who were married with higher levels of education, CRCS adherence was significantly higher for Whites; whereas among those who were unmarried, with low levels of education, adherence was significantly higher for Blacks.

Conclusion: We found that disparities in CRCS are greatly attenuated in the VA system and both Whites and Blacks have substantially higher rates of CRCS than the national average. These results point to the success of the VA at implementing CRCS system-wide. Our findings also suggest additional initiatives may be needed for unmarried low income white men and higher income black men.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / ethnology*
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Continental Population Groups / ethnology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Guideline Adherence / standards*
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Hospitals, Veterans / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Veterans