Study Comparing Large, Small Geographic Areas Suggests Modifiable Factors Play Role in Cancer Mortality Disparities
A study published in the May issue of the journal Cancer examines reasons for cancer mortality disparities by comparing the disparities in larger cities with those in smaller geographic areas, like neighborhoods within the cities, Reuters Health reports. According to the researchers, led by Jaymie Meliker of Stony Brook University, smaller areas are usually more homogenous in terms of household income, access to care and other factors that might affect cancer mortality. The researchers thus hypothesized that if cancer mortality racial disparities that existed in larger cities diminished when they looked at smaller geographic areas, then modifiable factors, and not genetics, might be responsible for the disparities.
Researchers used the Michigan Cancer Surveillance Program, which included data on 124,218 breast cancer and 120,615 prostate cancer patients from 1985 to 2002. According to the researchers, in the large geographic regions analyzed, whites had significantly higher survival rates of prostate and breast cancer than blacks. However, when researchers focused in on smaller geographic areas, such as legislative districts and neighborhoods, the disparities no longer remained.
According to the study, "When racial disparities vanish in small geographic areas, it suggests that modifiable factors are responsible for apparent racial disparities observed at larger geographic scales." The study did not specify which modifiable factors contribute to the disparities (Reuters Health, 4/13).
An abstract of the study is available online.