Racial disparities in mortality associated with colorectal cancer (CRC) may be related to lower availability of primary care physicians (PCPs), according to a recent study published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer.
CRC remains a significant health concern in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Despite advances in screening and treatment options, racial disparities in CRC outcomes persist. The study’s authors “sought to assess the correlation of availability of primary care physicians and racial disparities in CRC-related mortality.”
Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research and the Association of American Medical Colleges State Physician Workforce Data Report. Following data collection, they examined age-adjusted incidence and mortality rates of CRC across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, researchers collected information on the number of actively practicing PCPs in each state. Pearson’s coefficient was used to assess correlations, and the 2-sample t-test was employed for comparing PCP/CRC ratios between racial groups.
Researchers found that the mean age-adjusted mortality rate per 100,000 patients with CRC was significantly higher among Black populations compared with White populations. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrated that states with higher ratios of PCPs to CRC cases had lower CRC-related mortality rates. This correlation was observed in both White and Black populations.
The study also showed that the mean PCP per CRC case ratio was significantly lower among Black populations than White populations, indicating a disparity in access to primary care, which may contribute to the higher mortality rates observed among Black individuals.
While the study provides valuable insight into the correlation between availability of PCPs and racial disparities in CRC-related mortality, there are several limitations that should be considered. The study established a correlation between PCP availability and CRC-related mortality rates among different racial populations; however, it did not establish a causal relationship. Other factors, such as socioeconomic status, health care access, and lifestyle factors could also contribute to the observed disparities. Furthermore, the study relied on publicly available data; therefore, the accuracy and consistency of the data sources may vary, potentially affecting the validity of the study’s findings.
While further research on the topic is needed, the authors called for future efforts that are “focused on the development of strategies focused on improving access to primary care, [which] may help bridge racial disparities in CRC-related outcomes.”