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

amining many of the intertwined variables influencing health and disease to look for differences among African Americans and Caucasians.

In all, the study focused on 136 risk factors, including demographics (age, race, gender), smoking and alcohol use, access to care and type of cancer treatment (radiation and/or surgery). Tumor characteristics, including stage, biology and genetics, also were examined.

Much of the disparities seen among African Americans with head and neck cancer can be traced to access to care barriers, including insurance, that prevent them from getting timely and high-quality medical care, often resulting in late stage diagnosis.

Henry Ford researchers found that: While 88% of African Americans in the study had medical insurance, the majority had Medicare or Medicaid instead of private health insurance. African Americans also were more likely to be unmarried or living alone, both of which previous studies suggest have a negative impact on quality of life and survival. In terms of cancer treatment, African Americans in this study were more than two times more likely than Caucasians to receive radiation therapy. Often times, if the tumor is extensive or it is not feasible to completely remove it, radiotherapy is initially given to try to shrink the tumor. The study showed fewer African Americans (43%) opted for surgery than Caucasians (49%). The tumor tissue samples also held important clues. African American tumors were six to seven times more likely to present with lymphocytic response, which essentially is an entourage of immune system cells. These cells behave not only as first responders against tumors, but can also produce growth factors (chemicals) that feed tumor growth, such as forming blood vessels. Compared to Caucasian tumors, African American tumors were almost two times more likely to have loss of the CDKN2A (cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2A) gene and gain of the SCYA3 (small inducible cytok
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Contact: Krista Hopson
khopson1@hfhs.org
313-874-7207
Henry Ford Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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