Why Do African-Americans Fare Worse With Cancer? Access and Economics Are Only Part of the Story
“When you look at the dialogue about the issue of race and cancer survival that’s gone on over the years,” says the paper’s lead author,
The study, which will be published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) on
“The good news is that for most common cancers,” Albain says, “if you get good treatment, your survival is the same regardless of race. But this is not the case for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.”
Even with good treatment by the same doctors, African-American patients with one of these three cancers faced a significantly higher risk of death than did other patients, ranging from a 21% higher risk for those with prostate cancer to a 61% higher risk for ovarian cancer patients.
The elimination of treatment and socioeconomic factors as the cause of this higher mortality “implicates biology,” says study co-author
“There may be differences in genetic factors by race that alter the metabolism of chemotherapy drugs or that make cancers more resistant or more aggressive,” she adds.
Hershman published a smaller study last month that found that, at least with breast cancer, disparities in survival based on race persist even after adjusting for differences in treatment. That study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, analyzed data on 634 breast cancer patients.
“Our study of multiple cancers is distinguished from others that have looked at race-based disparities by its size and by the source of its data,” says
The study analyzed records from 35 clinical trials – going back as far as 1974 – that had been conducted by the Southwest Oncology Group, an NCI-sponsored cooperative group headquartered at the
“It’s because of the similar way that people are treated on clinical trials that these differences are even detectable,” he says. Meyskens is associate chair for Cancer Control and Prevention for the Southwest Oncology Group and director of the
The urgency of addressing the reasons for racial disparities in outcomes – both sociological and biological – is amplified by another recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It predicts the cancer incidence among minorities will nearly double in the coming decades, increasing 99% by 2030 compared to an expected 31% increase among whites.
And the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the field’s premier professional organization, recently issued a “Disparities in Cancer Care” policy statement that recommends a set of strategies for improving outcomes for minority cancer patients.
“The elimination of socioeconomic and healthcare access disparities must be a priority in
The Southwest Oncology Group (swog.org) is one of the largest cancer clinical trials cooperative groups, with a network of almost 5,000 physician-researchers practicing at more than 500 institutions, including 19 of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers. The Group is headquartered at the
SOURCE Southwest Oncology Group