African Americans are disproportionately burdened with colorectal cancer. Although incidence and mortality rates have declined in the past two decades, the disparity in health outcomes has progressively increased. This comprehensive review examines the existing literature regarding racial disparities in colorectal cancer screening, stage at diagnosis, and treatment to determine if differences exist in the quality of care delivered to African Americans. A comprehensive review of relevant literature was performed. Two databases (EBSCOHOST Academic Search Premier and Scopus) were searched from 2000 to 2007. Articles that assessed racial disparities in colorectal cancer screening, stage of disease at diagnosis, and treatment were selected. The majority of studies identified examined colorectal cancer screening outcomes. Although racial disparities in screening have diminished in recent years, African American men and women continue to have higher colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates and are diagnosed at more advanced stages. Several studies regarding stage of disease at diagnosis identified socioeconomic status (SES) and health insurance status as major determinants of disparity. However, some studies found significant racial disparities even after controlling for these factors. Racial disparities in treatment were also found at various diagnostic stages. Many factors affecting disparities between African Americans and Whites in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality remain unexplained. Although the importance of tumor biology, genetics, and lifestyle risk factors have been established, prime sociodemographic factors need further examination to understand variances in the care of African Americans diagnosed with colorectal cancer
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