NOV 23, 2020 9:48 AM PST

Where are the geographic hotspots of high mortality rates for women with colorectal cancer?

A study published in Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology highlights the risk disparities in death rates from colorectal cancer based on geography. The study looked at geographic locations in the US where women with early-onset colorectal cancer have the highest mortality rates, finding that certain counties, such as Davidson County in Tennessee, are hotspots.

Using data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research team conducting the study looked at information from 28,790 women collected between 1999-2016 by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program from the National Cancer Institute. Their aim was to determine if there were specific community health behaviors that could explain these survival disparities.

"Colorectal cancer is becoming more common in young adults, and we don't entirely understand the 'why' just yet. This rising burden among young adults stresses the importance for accurate and early diagnosis of these malignancies. Primary care physicians and gastroenterologists around the country, and particularly in Nashville and other hot spot regions, should keep colorectal tumors in the differential diagnosis of young patients presenting with signs/symptoms of colorectal cancer," said lead author Andreana Holowatyj, PhD, MSCI, assistant professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

In their analyses, the team identified roughly one in every 16 counties across the contiguous US as hot spots. While there is still much to be understood about why these counties show such high rates of mortality, the community health behavior patterns point towards a trend of physical inactivity and fertility. Almost a fourth of adults living in hot spot counties reported no physical activity during their leisure time while roughly 5% of women in these counties had a live birth in the past year. Non-Hispanic Black individuals made up on average 19.3% of the population in hot spot counties.

Photo: Pexels

"In our study published earlier this year, Nashville is not an area of high mortality for both men and women diagnosed with early-onset colorectal cancer, but when you take a step back and look at only women, now Davidson County and Nashville emerge," Holowatyj said. "These results emphasize the need to understand these pronounced disparities in early-onset colorectal cancer burden not only by geographic region, but also by sex and race/ethnicity."

This study comes as a follow-up to a previous study led by Holowatyj and colleagues that identified hot spot counties for early-onset colorectal cancer mortality among both men and women. This new study focuses specifically on the hot spot geography in relation to the mortality rate of women.

Sources: Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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