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Liver Cancer Survival Rates May Be Worse for Blacks

MONDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans with early-stage liver cancer are more likely to die of the disease than Asian, Hispanic or white patients, say researchers.

The team at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, analyzed U.S. National Cancer Institute data about 13,244 patients diagnosed with stage 1 or 2 liver cancer between 1995 and 2006.

There were 6,316 white patients, 3,022 Asian patients, 2,230 Hispanic patients, 1,397 black patients, and 279 patients classified as "other." Five-year survival rates were: 22 percent for Asian patients, 18.2 percent for white patients, 17.1 percent for "other" patients, 15.2 percent for Hispanic patients, and 12.2 percent for black patients.

Median survival times were 15 months for Asians, 10 months for whites and Hispanics, and eight months for blacks, the investigators found.

After they adjusted for the type of treatment received, the researchers concluded that black patients had a 12 percent higher death rate than white patients; Hispanic and white patients had similar rates of death, and Asian patients had a 16 percent lower death rate.

The study appears in the December issue of the journal Archives of Surgery.

"The most notable finding in our study was that racial/ethnic variation in hepatocellular carcinoma [liver cancer] outcome is related to access and variable treatment effect from specific therapies," the researchers wrote in a university news release.

"After adjusting for treatment effects, the racial/ethnic disparity in survival between black and white patients decreased but persisted," they continued. "This finding is linked to two major issues that contribute to health-related disparities in minority populations: black patients have poor access to treatment, and, even after obtaining treatment, they have relatively poor outcomes compared with white patients."

More information

The American Liver Foundation has more about liver cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 20, 2010

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