(HealthDay News) — Higher utilization of primary care among Medicare beneficiaries reduces colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence and mortality, according to a study published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Jeanne M. Ferrante, M.D., M.P.H., from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and colleagues utilized data from the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results survey to identify patients aged 67 to 85 years diagnosed with CRC between 1994 and 2005 and matched controls (205,804 participants for CRC incidence; 54,160 for CRC mortality; and 121,070 for all-cause mortality). Primary care visits in the four- to 27-month period before CRC diagnosis were assessed.

The researchers found that persons with five to 10 primary care visits had lower CRC incidence (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.94), mortality (aOR, 0.78), and all-cause mortality (aOR, 0.79), compared to patients with no more than one primary care visits. For patients having late-stage CRC diagnosis, distal lesions, and diagnosis in more recent years when there was greater Medicare screening coverage, the associations were even stronger. Ever having CRC screening and polypectomy reduced the association between primary care utilization with CRC incidence.

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“Increasing and promoting access to primary care in the United States for Medicare beneficiaries may help decrease the national burden of CRC,” the authors write.

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