Ovarian Cancer More Deadly Among Blacks

March 14, 2002 -- Black women with ovarian cancer are 30% more likely to die and die earlier for any reason compared with white women. A new study suggests that ethnicity in itself may be a risk factor in ovarian cancer survival -- even after adjusting for other factors associated with race.

The study, published in the March 15 issue of CANCER, compared information on 12,000 white women and almost 800 black women with ovarian cancer from a national database.

Researchers found several differences between the two groups of women that may affect survival. Black women were two years older, on average, than white women at the time of diagnosis (63 vs. 61 years), and they were 50% more likely to have the most advanced stage of disease that had spread to other organs. Ovarian cancer survival is closely linked to the stage of disease at the time of diagnosis.

The study found black women were more than twice as likely to be unmarried, which may affect the strength of their social support network. They also were 40% more likely to not have surgery to remove the tumors.

But after adjusting for these factors already known to be associated with race, the study found black women were still at a 30% increased risk of death from any cause compared their white counterparts.

Researchers say other factors not included in the database, such as socioeconomic status, course of treatment, and access to care should be investigated to help understand the ethnic differences in survival rates.

More than 23,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year, and 14,000 women died from the disease in the year 2000. Overall, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 40%. According to this study, white women survived an average of 10 months longer after diagnosis than black women (32 months vs. 22 months).