SALT LAKE CITY—People who reside in rural areas of Utah are less likely to follow colorectal cancer (CRC) screening recommendations than their urban counterparts, according to researchers from Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah. This geographic disparity is evident across all risk groups, including those who have a family history of the disease.
“Our hypothesis was that geography matters," said Anita Kinney, PhD, RN, who leads HCI’s Cancer Control and Populations Sciences Research Program and is principal investigator of the study. “And what we found is that it does indeed matter."
Kinney is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Utah, a Jon and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professor in Cancer Research, and an HCI investigator. The research team’s findings are reported in an article appearing in the current issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
“Other studies have confirmed differences in health care behaviors between urban and rural residents. Ours is the first study to examine the influence of distance from, and availability of, CRC screening providers on the use of risk-appropriate screening among urban and rural dwellers," Kinney said.
American Cancer Society screening guidelines for patients with a family history of CRC recommend earlier and more frequent testing. Individuals with a parent, sibling, or child diagnosed with the disease when less than 60 years old are considered at high risk and should begin colonoscopy screening at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest age of diagnosis in the immediate family, whichever is earlier, and continue at five-year intervals.
Kinney’s team analyzed data from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, a set of telephone surveys coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments. The survey routinely includes questions about cancer screening, but not about familial CRC history. Working with the Utah Department of Health, the research team added questions concerning family history of CRC that indicated whether increased familial cancer risk was present.