A new interactive online tool developed by the National Cancer Institute to help U.S. residents assess their risk for developing colon cancer does not include information for minorities, the New York Times reports. The tool asks users about 20 questions, the first of which are about race and ethnic background. If users identify themselves as "Hispanic" or "Black or African-American," a message appears, stating, "At this time the risk calculations and results provided by this tool are only accurate for non-Hispanic white men and women ages 50 to 85." The notice then refers users to another NCI Web site about cancer for more information.

NCI officials said that they are modifying the tool so it will be applicable for blacks, Hispanics and Asians, but that the data used to develop the tool was from studies involving mostly older white participants. Andrew Freedman, the NCI epidemiologist who developed the tool, said, "It will be more difficult to validate this model in other ethnicities, because data is more difficult to come by."

According to the Times, blacks have a higher risk than whites of developing and dying of colorectal cancer, and recent reports suggest the disparity is becoming greater. Gail Christopher, vice president for programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said that even if data for other racial and ethnic groups was insufficient, NCI officials "should have at least been more forthright in the opening paragraph and acknowledged the racial disparity with this disease upfront, and offered some advice to people who face a greater risk, to perhaps seek out a different form of examination" (Caryn Rabin, New York Times, 2/13).

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