March 10, 2023

Watson Coleman, Payne, Jr. Reintroduce Resolution to Recognize the Impact of Colorectal Cancer on the Black Community

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) introduced a resolution acknowledging the horrific impact colorectal cancer has on the Black community and that the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force needs to reduce the age of screening for this cancer.

Colorectal Cancer, or CRC, is the third most common cancer in the United States for men and women combined, and it’s the second leading cause of cancer death. On average, CRC takes more than 50,000 lives each year. The rate of CRC is 24% higher among Black men and 19% higher among Black women than compared to white men and women. Regarding the rate of CRC death, it is 31.5% higher among Black men and 24.4% higher among Black women. It is the third-leading cause of cancer death in Black men and women in the U.S.

“While Colorectal Cancer is a terrible disease that has devastated so many families, it has a 90% survival rate if caught early,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. “Many of those we’ve lost could have been saved if they had access to screenings just a few years earlier. Raising awareness not only of the importance of screenings but the need for early access of screenings can spare so many families the hardships and heartache of lost family members.”

“It’s an honor to join Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman to promote more awareness of colorectal cancer,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “We must raise awareness of colorectal cancer so we can save more Americans from this deadly disease.  I’ve worked diligently to help colorectal cancer patients.  My bill, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, was signed into law in 2020 to allow Medicare beneficiaries to be covered when doctors remove cancerous growths, or polyps, during routine colorectal cancer screenings, called colonoscopies.  I introduced a separate bill, the Colorectal Cancer Payment Fairness Act, to make the coverage from that law effective immediately.  Finally, I introduced The Donald Payne Sr. Colorectal Cancer Detection Act to provide more options for Americans to determine if their risk for colorectal cancer.  In addition, I wrote a letter to ask President Biden to issue a Presidential Proclamation to declare March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  This year, an estimated 153,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 52,000 will die from it.  Yet, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers if detected early.  Awareness encourages more people to get screened and catch it before it becomes deadly.  In addition, awareness helps my colleagues in Congress understand the health risks of colorectal cancer to support more funding for medical efforts to fight it.  I lost my father, Donald M. Payne, Sr. to colorectal cancer 11 years ago.  I want to make sure more families do not lose their fathers and loved ones to this dreaded disease.”  

The tragic impact of CRC in the Black community is amplified as deaths from CRC among people younger than 55 have increased by one percent per year from 2008 to 2017. The world became more aware of this severe issue when 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman died of CRC in 2020.

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force currently recommends screening at 50, which in turn impacts when insurance companies will cover the screening. Due to the uptick in younger people dying of CRC, especially in the Black community, the resolution cites the need to have that lowered to at least 45.

"Disparities in healthcare, including access to high-quality colorectal cancer screening and treatment, are an enduring and shameful burden faced by Black Americans, and one that can be aggravated further by the intersecting conditions of low incomes, insurance status, and education level," said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. "Black Americans are 20 percent more likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 35 percent more likely to die from it. A patient's stage at diagnosis is a pivotal factor in survival, and Black individuals are most likely to be diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer. The Colorectal Cancer Alliance encourages action in communities and the halls of Congress to write a new narrative, one in which all citizens have an equal opportunity to live a healthy life, free from this highly preventable disease. We are proud allies of Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald M. Payne, Jr. and their continued efforts to overcome systemic health disparities with a focus on colorectal cancer. A person's unique characteristics should have no bearing on the quality of healthcare they can access — we are all Americans."

The resolution is cosponsored by Reps. Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Bennie Thompson (MS-02).

Text of the resolution can be found here.