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Americans Cut Down On Checking For Colon Cancer During Recession

Posted: 02/26/12 10:36 AM ET  |  Updated: 02/26/12 01:16 PM ET

Colonoscopy Screening

The recession pushed many Americans to cut back on a vital service, one that could have cost some their lives.

Americans between the ages of 50 to 64 got 500,000 fewer colonoscopies, or screenings aimed at detecting colon cancer, during the recession, compared to the two years before, according to a recent study from researchers at the University of North Carolina's medical school.

The cut back may have had adverse affects on Americans’ health; another recent study found that removing polyps detected by colonoscopies can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer in half.

The study on the prevalence of screenings during the recession also found that regardless of the economic climate, cost is often a barrier for patients looking to get screened. Patients with out-of-pocket costs that were $300 or more were less likely to get screened then those with costs that were $50 or less, Spencer Dorn, one of the study's authors told the Wall Street Journal, and that gap grew during the recession.

The downturn has pushed many Americans to cut back on health care across the board. High unemployment during the recession and into the recovery has meant that many Americans scaled back on going to the doctor and hospital, either because they don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance or because they have limited funds, according to health companies cited by Dow Jones.

Hospitals also suffered from the cut backs. With fewer insured patients, the number of patients using elective and other more profitable procedures in California procedures fell in 2009, forcing them to hurt for credit, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2010, the number of Americans with health insurance fell for the first time in more than two decades, according to CNNMoney. And according to Gallup, the percentage of uninsured Americans only grew last year. Though the recession technically ended in 2009, its effects such high unemployment and suppressed wages have lasted into the recovery, likely pushing more Americans to lose or skimp on health insurance.

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Filed by Jillian Berman  |