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Does Race Affect Cancer Survival?

Breast Cancer Deaths Higher for Black Women Despite Equal Treatment

Factors Influencing Cancer Survival continued...

“In the late 1970s, we started learning how to treat breast cancer,” he says. “Before this time, poverty and access to care would not have had a big impact on survival.”

This is also about the time when obesity began to be a problem in the United States, with the black population affected more than the white population.

In an editorial examining the two studies, Brawley writes that even biologically driven differences in survival between black and white cancer patients may still be influenced by factors such as culture and poverty.

He cites a 2001 study from Scotland that found that poor Scottish women were more likely to have more aggressive estrogen-receptor negative tumors than middle-class or upper-class Scottish women.

“Some biological and even genetic differences in populations are not inherent from birth and immutable,” he writes. “They are influenced by environmental factors associated with socioeconomic status and culture.”

Brawley says the research convinces him that if access to medical care were equal and more emphasis was placed on preventive care, the cancer survival disparity between blacks and whites would largely disappear.

“There are a whole bunch of people out there who are not getting adequate medical care, and it does matter,” he says.

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