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Class May Drive Colon Cancer Race Gap

Social, Economic Factors May Largely Explain Black-White Gap in Colon Cancer Survival Rates
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 23, 2007 -- Colon cancer survival rates are worse for blacks than whites, and that may largely be due to social and economic factors, according to a new research review.

The reviewers, who work in Houston at the University of Texas Health Science Center, included Xianglin Du, MD, PhD.

They note that colon cancer killed 27 per 100,000 blacks compared with 19 per 100,000 whites from 2000-2003 in the U.S. During the same period, the five-year colon cancer survival rate was almost 55% for blacks, compared with 65% for whites.

Many factors may affect colon cancer survival rates, including genetics, access to medical care, exposure to cancer-causing substances, and lifestyle habits.

Du's team took a closer look at the black-white race gap in colon cancer survival to gauge the influence of social and economic (socioeconomic) factors.

The reviewers pooled data from 10 U.S. studies on colon cancer, race, and socioeconomic factors.

Each study was designed differently. Together, the studies included more than 96,400 people who were diagnosed with colon cancer from 1977-1997 who were followed for up to 17 years.

Adjusting for socioeconomic factors and for colon cancer treatment erased much of the black-white race gap in colon cancer survival rates.

The reviewers conclude that closing the social and economic gaps may narrow the colon cancer survival race gap.

"Because treatment and socioeconomic factors are modifiable, efforts to eliminate racial disparities in health care and to minimize disparities in socioeconomic status have the potential to reduce racial inequalities in colon cancer survival," write Du and colleagues.

Their report appears in the June 1, 2007 edition of Cancer.

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