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Cancer rates high among American Indians of Minnesota, Northern Plains

In the first national large-scale study of cancer rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives, researchers found that American Indians in Minnesota and the surrounding Northern Plains have a colorectal cancer rate 39 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites. Related studies indicate that this group also has a 197 percent higher rate of liver cancer, a 135 percent higher rate of stomach cancer, and a 148 percent higher rate of gallbladder cancer compared with non-Hispanic whites.

David Perdue, M.D., a physician-researcher with the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, was lead author of the colorectal cancer study and co-author of the studies on rates of stomach, liver, and gallbladder cancers among American Indians and Alaska Natives. The findings were published in the August 20 online edition of the journal Cancer and in a supplement to the journal’s September 1 print edition.

The researchers also discovered that for all cancers combined, the incidence rates were 50 percent higher for American Indians in the Southwest and Plains and for Alaska Natives than for non-Hispanic whites. American Indians in the Northern Plains had the highest rate of lung cancer, and Alaska Native women had the highest rate of breast cancer.

“It is evident from this research that more needs to be done to close the disparity gap in cancer screening and treatment among American Indians and Alaska Natives,” says Perdue. “Resources and culturally sensitive programs aimed at decreasing risk factors and increasing the use of screening are desperately needed.”

The research was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Indian Health Service.

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