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Study looks at disparities in cancer screening among worker groups

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Atlanta – Workers in smaller organizations and in certain industries are screened for cancer less frequently than other groups, according to a recent study from the American Cancer Society.

Reviewing three years of National Health Interview Survey data (2010, 2013 and 2015), researchers tracked respondents’ screening for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer and noted their employment characteristics. They found:

  • Cancer screening was much lower among people working for organizations with fewer than 25 employees, compared with workers in organizations with more than 500 employees.
  • Health care workers were most likely to have undergone a screening.
  • Health care support, construction, food service and production workers were least likely to have been screened.

The researchers speculate that the lower prevalence among workers employed by smaller organizations may be linked to less paid time off to schedule screenings and a higher probability of having no insurance coverage. “Especially concerning” was the lower screening levels in the production, construction and food service industries – sectors that also have higher rates of obesity and smoking, which increase the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal, breast and cervical cancer.

The researchers said the findings can be used to identify occupations and employers most in need of assistance to raise screening frequency. “These findings underscore the need for better access to cancer screening in underserved populations,” the study states.

The study was published in the December issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

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