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Cancer Health Center

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Racial Gap Persists in Cancer Care

Study Shows No Narrowing of Cancer Care Racial Disparity Among White and African-American Medicare Patients
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 7, 2008 -- A racial gap persists in cancer care, with African-Americans less likely than whites to get cancer treatment through Medicare, a new study shows.

Efforts to close that racial disparity in cancer care "have been unsuccessful," write Yale University's Cary Gross, MD, and colleagues, calling their findings "particularly disappointing."

The researchers tracked cancer treatments among African-American and white Medicare patients diagnosed with lung, breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer between 1992 and 2002.

Data were available for more than 82,000 prostate cancer patients, more than 40,000 breast cancer patients, some 11,200 lung cancer patients, and more than 9,000 colorectal cancer patients.

Throughout the study, African-Americans were less likely to get cancer treatment -- including cancersurgery, chemotherapy, and radiation -- than whites. Other factors, such as social class and seeing a doctor in the year before cancer diagnosis, didn't fully explain the results.

The racial disparity varied between cancer treatments.

For instance, African-Americans were about 15% less likely than whites to get surgery for early-stage lung cancer. That's a much bigger gap than the 2% difference among African-Americans and whites who underwent breast cancer chemotherapy.

The results are due to appear in the Feb. 15, 2008 edition of Cancer.

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