Urban–rural disparities in colorectal cancer screening: cross-sectional analysis of 1998–2005 data from the Centers for Disease Control's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Study



Allison M. Cole, Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, 6524 11th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117. Tel: 206-909-2380; Fax: 206-616-4768; E-mail: acole2@u.washington.edu


Despite the existence of effective screening, colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Identification of disparities in colorectal cancer screening will allow for targeted interventions to achieve national goals for screening. The objective of this study was to contrast colorectal cancer screening rates in urban and rural populations in the United States. The study design comprised a cross-sectional study in the United States 1998–2005. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 1998 to 2005 were the method and data source. The primary outcome was self-report up-to-date colorectal cancer screening (fecal occult blood test in last 12 months, flexible sigmoidoscopy in last 5 years, or colonoscopy in last 10 years). Geographic location (urban vs. rural) was used as independent variable. Multivariate analysis controlled for demographic and health characteristics of respondents. After adjustment for demographic and health characteristics, rural residents had lower colorectal cancer screening rates (48%; 95% CI 48, 49%) as compared with urban residents (54%, 95% CI 53, 55%). Remote rural residents had the lowest screening rates overall (45%, 95% CI 43, 46%). From 1998 to 2005, rates of screening by colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy increased in both urban and rural populations. During the same time, rates of screening by fecal occult blood test decreased in urban populations and increased in rural populations. Persistent disparities in colorectal cancer screening affect rural populations. The types of screening tests used for colorectal cancer screening are different in rural and urban areas. Future research to reduce this disparity should focus on screening methods that are acceptable and feasible in rural areas.