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Genetics, lifestyle provide clues to racial differences in head and neck cancer
Date:9/14/2011

DETROIT Why are African Americans more likely than Caucasians to be not only diagnosed with head and neck cancer, but also die from the disease?

While the answer isn't a simple one, differences in lifestyle, access to care and tumor genetics may, in part, be to blame, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital.

The study also finds that African Americans are more likely to be past or current smokers, one of the primary risk factors for head and neck cancer.

"We're really trying to understand why African Americans with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma do so poorly," says study lead author Maria J. Worsham, Ph.D., director of research in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.

"Using a comprehensive set of risk factors that are known to have some bearing on the disease, we're able to gain a better understanding of what contributes to racial differences and work to help improve patient care."

Results from the study will be presented Wednesday, Sept. 14 in San Francisco at the American Academy of OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting. The study was funded by a NIH grant.

This year alone, it's estimated that 52,140 news cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed, and roughly 11,460 will die in 2011 from oral cavity, and pharyngeal and laryngeal cancers.

African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and have a worse five-year survival than Caucasians. It's unknown whether significant biological rather than socioeconomic differences account for some of the disparities in outcomes.

To get at the root of these differences, Dr. Worsham and her research team used a large Detroit multi-ethnic group of 673 patients with HNSCC. Most notably, 42 percent of the study group is African American.

The researchers also took a very broad approach to the study, by ex
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Contact: Krista Hopson
khopson1@hfhs.org
313-874-7207
Henry Ford Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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