Background: Rural populations are diagnosed with cancer at different rate and stages than nonrural populations, and race/ethnicity as well as the area-level income exacerbates the differences. The purpose of this analysis was to explore cancer screening rates across persistent poverty rural counties, with emphasis on nonwhite populations.
Methods: The 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was used, combined with data from the Area Resource File (analytic n = 309 937 unweighted, 196 344 347 weighted). Unadjusted analysis estimated screening rates for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. Multivariate analysis estimated the odds of screening, controlling for individual and county-level effects.
Results: Rural residents, particularly those in persistent poverty counties, were less likely to be screened than urban residents. More African Americans in persistent poverty rural counties reported not having mammography screening (18.3%) compared to 15.9% of urban African Americans. Hispanics had low screening rates across all service types. Multivariate analysis continued to find disparities in screening rates, after controlling for individual and county-level factors. African Americans in persistent poverty rural counties were more likely to be screened for both breast cancer (odds ratio, 1.44; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-1.85) and cervical cancer (1.46; 1.07-1.99) when compared with urban whites.
Conclusions: Disparities in cancer screening rates exist across not only race/ethnicity but also county type. These disparities cannot be fully explained by either individual or county-level effects. Programs have been successful in improving screening rates for African American women and should be expanded to target other vulnerable women as well as other services such as colorectal cancer screening.
Keywords: cancer screening; disparities; persistent poverty; rural.