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Why Do African-Americans Fare Worse With Cancer? Access and Economics Are Only Part of the Story
Date:7/7/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An analysis of almost 20,000 patient records from the Southwest Oncology Group's database of clinical trials finds, for the first time, that African-American breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer patients tend to die earlier than patients of other races even when they get identical medical treatment and other confounding socioeconomic factors are controlled for. The finding points to biological or host genetic factors as the potential source of the survival gap.

"When you look at the dialogue about the issue of race and cancer survival that's gone on over the years," says the paper's lead author, Kathy Albain, M.D., a breast and lung cancer specialist at Loyola University's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, "it always seems to come down to general conclusions that African-Americans may in part have poorer access to quality treatment, may be diagnosed in later stages, and may not have the same standard of care delivered as Caucasian patients, leading to a disparity in survival."

The study, which will be published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) on July 7, found that when treatment was uniform and differences in tumor prognostic factors, demographics, and socioeconomic status were controlled, there was in fact no statistically significant difference in survival based on race for a number of other cancers -- lung, colon, lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.

"The good news is that for most common cancers," Albain says, "if you get good treatment, your survival is the same regardless of race. But this is not the case for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers."

Even with good treatment by the same doctors, African-American patients with one of these three cancers faced a significantly higher risk of death than did other patients, ranging from a 21% higher risk for those with prostate can
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SOURCE Southwest Oncology Group
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