A recent national study found major gaps in breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) across the United States, according to an MD Anderson Cancer Center news release.


Led by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, the study sought to understand cancer screenings in FQHCs compared with the general U.S. population.


FQHCs are federally funded nonprofit health centers that offer primary care services to medically underserved populations, regardless of ability to pay. In 2020, nearly 30 million people were provided health services by FQHCs. What’s more, about 62% of these individuals were from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, according to MedPage Today.


Cancer screening tests are essential to detecting cancer in its earlier stages, before it spreads and when it’s easier to treat, according to the American Cancer Society. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently offers screening guidelines for the general population.


Findings from the MD Anderson study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, revealed screening use in FQHCs was 45.4% for breast cancer, 51% for cervical cancer and 40.2% for colorectal cancer compared with 78.2%, 82.9% and 72.3%, respectively, in the U.S. general population.


“FQHCs provide high-quality primary care to underserved communities in the U.S., which are disproportionately comprised of racial and ethnic minorities, people without health insurance and those living below the poverty level,” said study author Jane Montealegre, PhD, an associate professor of behavioral science at MD Anderson, in the news release. “These findings highlight an urgent need to focus on scaling up evidence-based screenings in these populations to mitigate cancer disparities.”


Across states, researchers found cancer screening varied greatly. For example, breast cancer screening use in FQHCs ranged from 29.1% in Utah to 65.2% in Maine. For the general population, these screening rates ranged from 65.5% in Wyoming to 86.5% in Massachusetts.


The rate of underscreened populations served by FQHCs in certain states largely contributed to America’s overall underscreened population, according to the release. Study authors note that these differences can be partly attributed to health care funding policies and the differences in state screening programs.


“These findings highlight a major screening gap among minoritized populations and could have important implications for addressing disparities,” the study authors wrote.


In related news, the USPSTF just updated its breast cancer screening guidelines. It now recommends women start mammograms at age 40 instead of 50.


To read other similar stories, click #Cancer Screening. There, you’ll find headlines such as “The Pros and Cons of Using AI to Screen for Breast Cancer,” “Video Targeting Black Men May Help Increase Awareness About Prostate Cancer” and “Cost and Access Are Not the Only Barriers Women Face in Getting Lifesaving Mammograms.”