Perceived Discrimination Affects Screening Rates

Photo: Mammography

Mammography is an often used
screening method to detect breast
cancer; © NCI Visuals Online

"We have yet to achieve bias-free health care. This has serious public health implications as we know that higher levels of screening lead to lower levels of mortality. Clinicians need to be aware that they may be sending signals, even unintentionally, that lead minorities to believe they are being discriminated against," said LaVera M. Crawley, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Exactly what those signals are will need to be determined in future studies, Crawley says, but the relationship between perceived discrimination and failing to get regular screenings is strong. Crawley and colleagues analyzed data from the California Health Interview Survey, which examined cancer screening trends among African-American, American-Indian/Alaskan-Native, Asian and Latino adults. The data set included 11,245 respondents.

"Respondents answered yes or no to 'was there ever a time that you would have gotten better medical care if you had belonged to a different ethnic group?' However, we were not able to ask why they felt discriminated against," Crawley said. If minority women perceived racial discrimination, they were 34 percent less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer and 48 percent less likely to be screened for breast cancer, compared with women of any racial group who did not perceive discrimination, researchers found.

The results were slightly different among minority men. Overall, men who perceived racial discrimination were no less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than those who did not perceive discrimination. However, if they had a regular source of health care, they were 70 percent less likely to receive colorectal screening if they perceived racial discrimination.; Source: American Association for Cancer Research