Cancer survival disparities for most minority populations increase as cancers become more treatable

December 17, 2009

December 17, 2009 - Racial and ethnic disparities in cancer survival are greatest for cancers that can be detected early and treated successfully, including breast and prostate cancer, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Disparities are small or nonexistent for cancers that have more limited early detection and treatment options, such as pancreatic and lung cancer.

The findings, published in the October 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, highlight the need to develop specific health policies and interventions to address social disparities.

Although prior studies have focused on factors that contribute to disparities in specific cancers, the Mailman School researchers' goal in this study was to understand why racial/ethnic disparities emerge in some cancers but not others. The study used data from more than 580,000 cancer cases in the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registries to compare racial/ethnic differences in survival across a spectrum of cancers, classified according to their five-year relative survival rates as a measure of how amenable each cancer is to medical interventions. The authors hypothesized that racial/ethnic disparities increase as medical interventions improve overall survival because individuals with more socioeconomic resources are in a better position to exploit medical advances to protect their health.

The results found that, as compared with whites, substantial survival disparities existed in more treatable cancers in African-Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and several subgroups of the Asian/Pacific Islander population.

"Our findings may seem counterintuitive at first since medical advances in the last few decades have resulted in substantial improvements in cancer survival for most racial/ethnic population groups. However, this enhanced capacity to successfully treat certain cancers, when combined with the social disadvantage faced by many minorities, can lead to greater relative differences in cancer survival by race and ethnicity," said Parisa Tehranifar, DrPH, assistant professor of Epidemiology, a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the Mailman School of Public Health's Center for the Study of Social Inequalities in Health and lead author of the paper.

"If we are correct in our interpretation that these disparities emerge as a result of greater utilization of available interventions by socially advantaged groups, it follows that interventions that are easy to access and use, and do not rely heavily on personal resources such as educational and income levels, may have the greatest potential for reducing cancer and other health disparities," noted Dr. Tehranifar.

"Our cancer prevention and treatment efforts should continue to advance our public health and medical capacity for lowering the burden of cancer and mortality. However, we must also pay close attention to how the benefits of our medical advances are distributed in the population, and implement specific strategies that can reduce cancer disparities," said Mary Beth Terry, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology, a co-leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and senior author of the paper.
-end-
Supported by a Lance Armstrong Foundation Young Investigator Award and a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Cancer Institute, the research was done in collaboration with: Dr. Alfred I. Neugut, MD, PhD; Myron Studner Professor of Cancer Research in the Department of Medicine and professor of Epidemiology, and leader of the Prevention, Control & Disparities Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at Columbia University Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; Jo C. Phelan, PhD, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences; and Bruce G. Link, PhD, professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Epidemiology. Drs. Phelan and Link are also co-directors of Mailman School's Center for the Study of Social Inequalities and Health.

About the Mailman School of Public Health

The only accredited school of public health in New York City and among the first in the nation, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health pursues an agenda of research, education, and service to address the critical and complex public health issues affecting millions of people locally and globally. The Mailman School is the recipient of some of the largest government and private grants in Columbia University's history. Its more than 1000 graduate students pursue master's and doctoral degrees, and the School's 300 multi-disciplinary faculty members work in more than 100 countries around the world, addressing such issues as infectious and chronic diseases, health promotion and disease prevention, environmental health, maternal and child health, health over the life course, health policy, and public health preparedness. www.mailman.columbia.edu

About The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital encompasses pre-clinical and clinical research, treatment, prevention and education efforts in cancer. The Cancer Center was initially funded by the NCI in 1972 and became a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center in 1979. The designation recognizes the Center's collaborative environment and expertise in harnessing translational research to bridge scientific discovery to clinical delivery, with the ultimate goal of successfully introducing novel diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive approaches to cancer. www.hiccc.columbia.edu.

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Related Prostate Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

Low risk of cancer spread on active surveillance for early prostate cancer
Men undergoing active surveillance for prostate cancer have very low rates - one percent or less - of cancer spread (metastases) or death from prostate cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Urology®, an Official Journal of the American Urological Association (AUA).

ESMO 2020: Breast cancer drug set to transform prostate cancer treatment
A drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancer can extend the lives of some men with prostate cancer and should become a new standard treatment for the disease, concludes a major trial which is set to change clinical practice.

Major trial shows breast cancer drug can hit prostate cancer Achilles heel
A drug already licensed for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers is more effective than targeted hormone therapy at keeping cancer in check in some men with advanced prostate cancer, a major clinical trial reports.

The Lancet: Prostate cancer study finds molecular imaging could transform management of patients with aggressive cancer
Results from a randomised controlled trial involving 300 prostate cancer patients find that a molecular imaging technique is more accurate than conventional medical imaging and recommends the scans be introduced into routine clinical practice.

Common genetic defect in prostate cancer inspires path to new anti-cancer drugs
Researchers found that, in prostate cancer, a mutation leading to the loss of one allele of a tumor suppressor gene known as PPP2R2A is enough to worsen a tumor caused by other mutations.

First prostate cancer therapy to target genes delays cancer progression
For the first time, prostate cancer has been treated based on the genetic makeup of the cancer, resulting in delayed disease progression, delayed time to pain progression, and potentially extending lives in patients with advanced, metastatic prostate cancer, reports a large phase 3 trial.

Men taking medications for enlarged prostate face delays in prostate cancer diagnosis
University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers report that men treated with medications for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) experienced a two-year delay in diagnosis of their prostate cancer and were twice as likely to have advanced disease upon diagnosis.

CNIO researchers confirm links between aggressive prostate cancer and hereditary breast cancer
The study has potential implications for families with members suffering from these types of tumours who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Distinguishing fatal prostate cancer from 'manageable' cancer now possible
Scientists at the University of York have found a way of distinguishing between fatal prostate cancer and manageable cancer, which could reduce unnecessary surgeries and radiotherapy.

Researchers find prostate cancer drug byproduct can fuel cancer cells
A genetic anomaly in certain men with prostate cancer may impact their response to common drugs used to treat the disease, according to new research at Cleveland Clinic.

Read More: Prostate Cancer News and Prostate 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.