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Cancer survival disparities for most minority populations increase as cancers become more treatable
Date:12/17/2009

December 17, 2009 Racial and ethnic disparities in cancer survival are greatest for cancers that can be detected early and treated successfully, including breast and prostate cancer, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Disparities are small or nonexistent for cancers that have more limited early detection and treatment options, such as pancreatic and lung cancer.

The findings, published in the October 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, highlight the need to develop specific health policies and interventions to address social disparities.

Although prior studies have focused on factors that contribute to disparities in specific cancers, the Mailman School researchers' goal in this study was to understand why racial/ethnic disparities emerge in some cancers but not others. The study used data from more than 580,000 cancer cases in the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries to compare racial/ethnic differences in survival across a spectrum of cancers, classified according to their five-year relative survival rates as a measure of how amenable each cancer is to medical interventions. The authors hypothesized that racial/ethnic disparities increase as medical interventions improve overall survival because individuals with more socioeconomic resources are in a better position to exploit medical advances to protect their health.

The results found that, as compared with whites, substantial survival disparities existed in more treatable cancers in African-Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and several subgroups of the Asian/Pacific Islander population.

"Our findings may seem counterintuitive at first since medical advances in the last few decade
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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