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Where Cancer Treatment Takes Place May Influence Outcome

Death rates same for blacks, whites at specialized cancer centers, research shows

MONDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- When white and black cancer patients receive similar care at specialized cancer centers, there is no significant difference in cancer death rates, a U.S. study has found.

The finding suggests that where patients receive care may partly account for previous findings of racial disparities in cancer deaths, the study authors say in the March 22 online edition of Cancer.

In the study, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., analyzed the medical records of more than 200,000 Medicare recipients treated for cancer between 1998 and 2003. The team focused on one- and three-year death rates for white and black patients with lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.

Across all care settings, compared with white patients, black patients were 13 percent more likely to have died of cancer or other causes at one year, and 23 percent more likely to have died at three years, the study found.

However, when comparing only patients who received care at U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer centers, the risk of death at one and three years was about the same for blacks and whites. Black patients treated at NCI cancer centers had lower death rates than those treated elsewhere.

"We have known for some time that African-Americans die in greater numbers from cancer than Caucasians. The question is, why? This research shows that where patients are treated can influence those outcomes significantly," study leader Tracy Onega said in a news release from the American Cancer Society.

"The next step is to understand the components of treatment location that most dramatically affect differences in care, and ultimately outcomes, for all cancer patients," Onega added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer disparities.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, March 22, 2010

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