Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Study: African-Americans less likely than whites to survive breast, cancer and ovarian cancer

African-Americans are less likely than whites to survive breast, prostate and ovarian cancer even when they receive equal treatment, according to a large study that offers provocative evidence that biological factors play a role in at least some racial disparities.

The first study of its kind, involving nearly 20,000 cancer patients nationwide, found that the gap in survival between blacks and whites disappeared for lung, colon and several other cancers when they received identical care as part of federally funded clinical trials. But disparities persisted for prostate, breast and ovarian cancer, suggesting that other factors must be playing a role in the tendency of blacks to fare more poorly.

For decades, studies have shown that poor people and minorities are more likely to live shorter, sicker lives, and are less likely to survive a host of illnesses, including many cancers. Studies have indicated that the disparities were largely the result of poor people and minorities getting inferior care; they are less likely to have health insurance and receive routine preventive care, they frequently get diagnosed later, and they often undergo less aggressive treatment once they are diagnosed.

"There is good news and puzzling news in our results," said Kathy Albain of Loyola University, whose findings were published online Tuesday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

"When there's a level playing field with the same quality of care, African-Americans survive just as well as other races from some of our most common cancers, which is reassuring news and points us nationally toward a need to make sure there is quality of care and equal access to all," Albain said. "But for prostate, ovarian and breast (cancer), it's not access to care. There's something else. And we need to sort that out."

Because these three cancers are related to gender, the survival gap may be the result of differences in the biology of the tumors and inherited variations in genes that control metabolism of drugs and hormones, she said.

Some experts worried the findings could reinforce old prejudices. "When I hear scientists talking about racial differences, I worry that it starts to harken back to arguments about genetic inferiority," said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

"We certainly aren't talking about 'genetic inferiority' or stereotypes in our study," Albain wrote in an e-mail. "What we are saying is that there is something that 'tracks' with African ancestry only in these three diseases."

But Brawley and others argued that access to high-quality care remains the dominant problem. Socioeconomic factors that occur earlier in life may explain the findings, Brawley said. For example, poor people and minorities are more likely to grow up in polluted neighborhoods and have been hit hardest by the obesity epidemic, which could lead to more difficult-to-treat cancers, he said.

Study: African-Americans less likely than whites to survive breast, cancer and ovarian cancer 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 6:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. World's plastic waste could bury Manhattan 2 miles deep

    Environment

    WASHINGTON — Industry has made more than 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950 and there's enough left over to bury Manhattan under more than 2 miles of trash, according to a new cradle-to-grave global study.

    Plastic trash is compacted into bales ready for further processing at the waste processing dump on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus.
  2. Sen. John McCain's type of cancer did not slow Tampa woman

    Health

    TAMPA —When 35-year-old Beth Caldwell heard about Sen. John McCain's brain tumor this week, she hoped he would stay positive.

    That's what helped her, she said.

    Beth Caldwell, 35, and her sons Gavin, 10, and Triston, 7. Caldwell had surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumor three years ago. [Photo Courtesy of Beth Caldwell]
  3. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  4. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection

    Wildlife

    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  5. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]