* Breast, colorectal and cervical cancer often found late
* Early detection increases chances of cure
* Health reform could increase cancer screening -CDC
CHICAGO, Nov 24 (Reuters Life!) - Nearly half of colorectal and cervical cancers and a third of breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed in the late stages, even though screening tests are available to detect them early on, a report by U.S. health officials said on Wednesday.
They said more work is needed to ensure people get screened for these cancers, which could lead to early detection and more lives saved.
"This report causes concern because so many preventable cancers are not being diagnosed when treatment is most effective," Dr. Marcus Plescia of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
Researchers at the CDC studied rates of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer by stage and demographic characteristics in different U.S. states. They also used national data on new cancer cases collected through different registries at the CDC.
They found rates of late-stage colorectal cancer increased with age and were highest among black men and women.
Rates of late-stage breast cancer were highest among women aged 70 to 79 and among black women, the team reported in the CDC's weekly report on death and disease.
And they said rates of late-stage cervical cancer were highest among women aged 50 to 79 and among Hispanic women.
Where people live also plays a role in the frequency of screening and the diagnosis rate, the CDC said.
Cases of late-stage colorectal cancers were highest in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Cases of late-stage breast cancer were highest in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.
Cervical cancer rates were highest in Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
The CDC said the new health reform law signed by President Barack Obama in March, which covers recommended cancer screening tests, would eliminate cost barriers that might keep people from getting screening tests.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States behind lung cancer. It kills about 53,000 people each year.
Screening tests can find precancerous changes called polyps which can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Some 12,000 women in the United States each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, the easiest gynecologic cancer to prevent with screening tests and follow-up.
More than 191,000 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2006, and more than 40,000 died from the disease. Mammograms are the best screening test for most women. They can detect breast cancer before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; editing by Mohammad Zargham)