Colon cancer deaths are on the way down across the U.S. — with the exception of three large hotspots, researchers reported Wednesday.
A so-called ‘perfect storm’ of high rates of obesity, low education and a lack of access to medical care make for frighteningly high colon cancer rates in the Mississippi delta, western Appalachia and the borderland between North Carolina and Virginia, according to findings of the American Cancer Society.
“In the Mississippi delta, rates among black men are not declining at all,” said Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society, who led the study.
Colon cancer has now turned into one of the forms of cancer which can be easily prevent. Colonoscopy can easily spot and remove pre-cancerous growths before they can cause a problem, or find tumors easily where treatment is still possible. Surgery can remove colon cancers, and there are many effective chemotherapy drugs which can control it.
And the 2010 Affordable Care Act means that health insurers must pay for colon cancer screening.
Unfortunately it only works if people actually have health insurance, which can be an obstacle on some of these areas, Siegel said.
“Particularly in the lower Mississippi delta and Appalachia, there are longstanding challenges, with high poverty, unemployment which coincides with less insurance coverage,” she told NBC News.
A diet that’s rich in fat, sugar and red meat and low in fiber doesn’t help.
“It really is like a perfect storm,” Siegel said.
Politics may be an a cause of concern as well. The Affordable Care Act, widely called Obamacare, helps in subsidizing health insurance for low-income people. But it also relies on states expanding the Medicaid, the joint state-federal health insurance plan for the needy.
“Only half of the 12 states that are involved in these high-risk areas have expanded Medicaid,” Siegel said.
This implies many people with income not enough for subsidized insurance are left with very few options for paying with health care.