Study Shows Decline in Colorectal Cancer Deaths in Appalachian Kentucky

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A recent study by the University of Kentucky has revealed a decline in colorectal cancer deaths in Appalachian Kentucky from 1999 to 2020. However, the rate of decline in this region was significantly lower compared to the national average. 

The study focused on 54 counties in Kentucky served by the Appalachian Regional Commission and found that the mortality rate dropped from 31.24 deaths per 100,000 residents in 1999 to 24.46 per 100,000 in 2020. In contrast, the national rate decreased by nearly half, from 27 deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.81 in 2020.

Over the 21-year period analyzed, the death rate from colorectal cancer in Appalachian Kentucky averaged around 26 per 100,000 residents, slightly higher than the average of 22 per 100,000 in non-Appalachian counties and the national rate of 19.43 deaths per 100,000. Kentucky ranks fourth highest in colorectal cancer death rates nationwide.

The study, published in the journal Gastroenterology, utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was led by Dr. Syed Hassan, a research coordinator and clinical research scientist at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Hassan emphasized the need to improve screening rates and increase education on colorectal cancer to address the disparities in mortality rates in the region. He pointed out that a significant percentage of colorectal cancer deaths in Appalachian Kentucky occurred at home, indicating delayed medical intervention due to advanced disease stages.

Factors such as limited access to healthcare, lifestyle choices, and lack of awareness about colorectal cancer may contribute to the higher mortality rates. Dr. Hassan highlighted the importance of addressing these issues to improve outcomes.

Colorectal cancer screening is recommended to begin at age 45, as the risk of developing these cancers increases with age. However, recent studies show a rise in cases among younger individuals, especially those with specific risk factors or family history of the disease.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include age, lifestyle habits like smoking and poor diet, genetic predisposition, and socioeconomic factors. Identifying and addressing these risk factors early can help in prevention and early detection of the disease.

This article is republished from Kentucky Health News, an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, supported by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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