Colorectal Cancer Disparity in African Americans: Risk Factors and Carcinogenic Mechanisms

Am J Pathol. 2018 Feb;188(2):291-303. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2017.07.023. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) of any ethnic group in the United States. Although some of these disparities can be explained by differences in access to care, cancer screening, and other socioeconomic factors, disparities remain after adjustment for these factors. Consequently, an examination of recent advances in the understanding of ethnicity-specific factors, including genetic and environmental factors relating to risk of CRC, the biology of CRC progression, and the changes in screening and mortality, is important for evaluating our progress toward eliminating the disparities. An overarching limitation in this field is the number and sample size of studies performed to characterize the etiological bases of CRC incidence and mortality in African Americans. Despite this limitation, significant differences in etiology are manifest in many studies. These differences need validation, and their impacts on disparities need more detailed investigation. Perhaps most heartening, improvements in CRC screening can be attributed to the smallest difference in CRC incidence between African Americans and whites since the late 1980s. Cancer mortality, however, remains a persistent difference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Mutation
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Vitamin D