Study Shows Racial, Economic Disparities in Head, Neck Cancer Survival Rates
Blacks and people living in poverty have lower survival rates for head and neck cancers than other groups, according to a report published recently in the journal Cancer, Reuters Health reports. For the report, lead researcher Michael Cheung of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and colleagues aimed to determine the effects of race and socioeconomic status on head and neck cancer outcomes.
Researchers looked at nearly 21,000 patients who were diagnosed with either cancer between 1998 and 2002. Hispanics had the highest survival times among all the groups studied at 47 months, while blacks had the lowest at 21 months. The survival time for whites was 40 months, according to the report. In addition, those living in communities that had poverty rates above 15% were diagnosed with head and neck cancer at a significantly earlier age, and survival times were decreased among all age groups in those communities. Alcohol and tobacco use also adversely affected survival times.
Health care providers "need to be aware of such disparities" and "need to know that certain groups may present at a younger age and may have more aggressive cancer at that age," according to Cheung. They also must be "vigilant in early cancer detection by following the recommended cancer screening guidelines and be pro-active in patient education on risk reduction, such as smoking cessation and alcohol consumption."
Researchers suggest better education among patients to ensure they understand the importance of seeking care (Boggs, Reuters Health, 12/4).
An abstract of the study is available online.