On August 28, 2020, actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman, known for roles in movies like “Black Panther” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” passed away from colon cancer. Not only was this a shock to his millions of fans around the world as he was only 43 years old, but it also brought to light the increased risk of colorectal cancer for African Americans. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than other ethnic groups. What impact could this knowledge have on the number of Black or African Americans seeking colonoscopies to better detect this cancer?
In collaboration with Freakonomics, M.D., a podcast hosted by Dr. Bapu Jena, we investigated if there was an increase in colonoscopies for Black or African American men following Boseman’s death using a subset of the Truveta data.
What did we see? Our analyses did not show an increase in the normalized colonoscopies for men (over ages 45 and 50) in any of the race groups we investigated. These results were included in the March 31, 2022 Freakonomics, M.D. podcast.
We included the most recent colonoscopy (ICD10 Z12.11) from July 1, 2018 to March 10, 2022 for men. We looked at men over the age of 45 and 50 who had had an encounter since January 1, 2018. We looked at both age groups due to the Grade A and B colonoscopy recommendations.
Data were eliminated if sex, race, or age was missing. For this specific analysis we focused on three race groups: White, Black or African American, and Asian. For this Insight, we included only a subset of races and did not include people who identified as multiple races.
To normalize the data, we looked at colonoscopies in relation to other common screenings, in this case PSA screens (Z12.5) for prostate cancer and lipid profile tests (Z13.220) for high cholesterol.
We found the weekly sums of colonoscopies, PSA screens, and lipid profile test. We took the ratio of the weekly total of colonoscopies to the weekly totals of PSA screens and lipid profile tests to account for variability in hospital encounters. For example, there are decreased colonoscopies that occur during the weeks of Christmas and the New Year; however, there are also decreases in PSA screens and lipid profile tests. The graphs below represent a three-week rolling average of the data.
Our results do not show a change in the ratio for any race group following Boseman’s death.
These are preliminary research findings and not peer reviewed. Data are constantly changing and updating. These findings are consistent with data from 3/31/22.