New Research On Colorectal Cancer Shows African Americans More Susceptible Than Caucasians

Researchers present new findings on colorectal cancer disparities at the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ annual meeting. (Photo: Lecia Bushak / ideastream)
Researchers present new findings on colorectal cancer disparities at the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ annual meeting. (Photo: Lecia Bushak / ideastream)
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Colorectal cancer is more common and more deadly among African Americans than their white counterparts, acocrding to a new study.

Researchers presented new findings about this disparity at the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ annual meeting in downtown Cleveland Tuesday.

Colorectal cancers among African Americans tend not to respond as well to new cancer therapies designed to harness the immune system, leaving African American patients with worse outcomes, says Dr. James Church, a colorectal surgoen at Cleveland Clinic.

"They occur earlier, they’re more aggressive, and they have a worse prognosis," Church said. "It’s something about the biology of the cancer itself — so it’s the way the cancer develops, the way the cells in the cancer behave, that’s unique to African Americans."

Some two-thirds of colorectal cancers among African Americans occur on the right side of the colon, including younger patients under the age of 56. Church’s research found a difference in the way right-side colon cancer cells present in African Americans versus Caucasians, specifically with regards to the biological process of methylation — a process that can change the activity of a DNA sequence, sometimes with lethal results.

Church says more research is needed, but adds that environmental and socioeconomic factors such as poverty, diet, and lifestyle also play an important role in the disparity.

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