Black Americans of low socioeconomic status (SES) have higher colorectal cancer incidence than other groups in the United States. However, much of the research that identifies colorectal cancer risk factors is conducted in cohorts of high SES and non-Hispanic White participants. Adult participants of the Southern Community Cohort Study (N = 75,182) were followed for a median of 12.25 years where 742 incident colorectal cancers were identified. The majority of the cohort are non-Hispanic White or Black and have low household income. Cox models were used to estimate HRs for colorectal cancer incidence associated with sociocultural factors, access to and use of healthcare, and healthy lifestyle scores to represent healthy eating, alcohol intake, smoking, and physical activity. The association between Black race and colorectal cancer was consistent and not diminished by accounting for SES, access to healthcare, or healthy lifestyle [HR = 1.34; 95% confidence interval (CI),1.10–1.63]. Colorectal cancer screening was a strong, risk reduction factor for colorectal cancer (HR = 0.65; 95% CI, 0.55–0.78), and among colorectal cancer-screened, Black race was not associated with risk. Participants with high school education were at lower colorectal cancer risk (HR = 0.81; 95% CI, 0.67–0.98). Income and neighborhood-level SES were not strongly associated with colorectal cancer risk. Whereas individual health behaviors were not associated with risk, participants that reported adhering to ≥3 health behaviors had a 19% (95% CI, 1–34) decreased colorectal cancer risk compared with participants that reported ≤1 behaviors. The association was consistent in fully-adjusted models, although HRs were no longer significant. Colorectal cancer screening, education, and a lifestyle that includes healthy behaviors lowers colorectal cancer risk. Racial disparities in colorectal cancer risk may be diminished by colorectal cancer screening.

Prevention Relevance:

Colorectal cancer risk may be reduced through screening, higher educational attainment and performing more health behaviors. Importantly, our data show that colorectal cancer screening is an important colorectal cancer prevention strategy to eliminate the racial disparity in colorectal cancer risk.

See related Spotlight, p. 561

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