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Black Liver Cancer Patients Face Worst Odds

Study found they had lower survival rates than those of other races

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Even though they receive equal treatment, black patients with liver cancer have lower survival rates than patients of other races, a new U.S. study finds.

Researchers analyzed data from 20,920 patients in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry who were diagnosed with liver cancer between 1973 and 2004. The researchers also examined data from 4,735 United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) liver cancer patients who had liver transplantation between 1987 and 2008.

Over time, survival for liver cancer patients in all racial, ethnic and income groups has improved due to advances in screening, diagnosis and treatment. Among patients in the SEER registry, black and low-income liver cancer patients had the poorest long-term survival. Compared to whites, black patients had a 15 percent increased risk of death, while Asians had a 13 percent reduced risk, the researchers found.

The study findings are published online Jan. 25 in the journal Cancer.

The reasons for the survival disparities aren't clear, but may be due to differences in patients' underlying disease and in access to appropriate care, study author Dr. Joseph Kim, of City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., said in a news release from the journal. But even when the researchers adjusted for the type of therapy received by patients, blacks did worse than patients of other races.

Among patients who had liver transplants, blacks had poorer survival than all other groups of patients. This shows that racial and ethnic survival disparities can't be explained by differences in access to care alone. Further investigation is needed to identify other factors, the researchers said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about liver cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Jan. 25, 2010

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