Decline in late stage cancer diagnoses after health reform law

January 22, 2020

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 22, 2020 - Advanced stage cancer diagnoses declined following health insurance expansion in Massachusetts, likely due to increased access to screening and diagnostic services that identified cancers earlier, according to new research led by health economists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The analysis, published online and scheduled for the February edition of the journal Medical Care, specifically found the decline in colorectal cancers, the second-leading cause of cancer deaths nationwide. The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends everyone over age 50 receive routine screening for colorectal cancer, which has a 90% survival rate when treated early. That rate drops substantially when the cancer is diagnosed in advanced stages.

"Colorectal cancer frequently occurs in adults under 65 who are not yet eligible for Medicare. And we know from previous research that people who do not have health insurance or who are underinsured are less likely to get recommended preventive health screenings," said lead author Lindsay Sabik, Ph.D., associate professor in Pitt Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management. "Cancer is only one disease area where preventive care and early diagnosis can make a big difference in survival and cost of treatment. Our study demonstrates the public health value of expanded health insurance coverage."

In 2006, Massachusetts passed a health insurance reform law with the aim of providing health care access to nearly all of its residents. The national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010, was partly modelled on Massachusetts' reform.

Sabik and her team pulled data from the Massachusetts Cancer Registry on all colorectal and breast cancer cases in people ages 50- to 64-years-old from 2001 through 2013. They selected those two cancers for their study because both are common, have routine screening guidelines and have high survival rates when caught early. The age range captured people covered by the recommended screening guidelines but not old enough to qualify for Medicare. The team also pulled similar data from several other states for comparison.

For colorectal cancer, the researchers found a 7% decline in the likelihood of advanced stage diagnosis after Massachusetts health insurance reform was enacted relative to trends in comparison states. They did not find a comparable decline in advanced stage breast cancer diagnosis.

"Before Massachusetts enacted its health insurance reform, there already were well-established state and federal safety net programs that highly encouraged breast cancer screenings and provided them at low or no cost, regardless of insurance status," Sabik said. "So, we believe that those programs were already catching people who otherwise might not have been screened due to insurance status, which is good news -- it demonstrates that those safety net programs appear to work."

When the team extrapolates its findings in Massachusetts to the entire U.S., they estimate that there would be 2,100 fewer late-stage colorectal cancer diagnoses annually among non-elderly people. According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer care in the U.S. costs an estimated $16.3 billion annually.

"Our study is the first to present evidence that Massachusetts' health reform may be associated with a shift to earlier stage diagnosis for a cancer that has a high cure rate when caught early," said Sabik. "This is exciting because key elements of the Affordable Care Act parallel those of the Massachusetts reform. While data on the long-term impacts are still emerging, we expect that early cancer diagnosis will likely be one of the major success stories of national health insurance reform."
-end-
Additional authors on this study are Kristen Y. Eom, M.P.H., and Jie Li, Ph.D., both of Pitt; Bassam Dahman, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University; Nengliang Yao, Ph.D., of the University of Virginia; G.J. van Londen, M.D., M.S., of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital; and Cathy J. Bradley, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This research was funded by American Cancer Society grant RSG-16-017-01-CPHPS, National Cancer Institute grant P30 CA047904 and the Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation.

To read this release online or share it, visit https://www.upmc.com/media/news/012220-sabik-cancer-stage-health-reform.

Contact: Allison Hydzik
Office: 412-647-9975
Mobile: 412-559-2431
E-mail: HydzikAM@upmc.edu

Contact: Cyndy Patton
Office: 412-586-9773
Mobile: 412-415-6085
E-mail: PattonC4@upmc.edu

About the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, founded in 1948 and now one of the top-ranked schools of public health in the United States, conducts research on public health and medical care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world. Pitt Public Health is a leader in devising new methods to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other important public health problems. For more information about Pitt Public Health, visit the school's Web site at http://www.publichealth.pitt.edu.

http://www.upmc.com/media

University of Pittsburgh

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.