Racial Disparities Exist in Head and Neck Cancer Outcomes

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FRIDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Blacks and the poor have worse outcomes when it comes to head and neck cancer, researchers say.

In a new study, published in the Nov. 15 issue of Cancer, researchers examined the data on diagnosis, coexisting conditions, and procedures performed among 20,915 cases of head and neck cancer.

The found a worse prognosis was associated with race, poverty, age, gender, tumor site and stage, treatment type, and history of smoking and alcohol consumption.

Specifically, the survival time among blacks was 21 months after being diagnosed with head and neck cancer, compared to 47 months among Hispanics and 40 months among whites. In addition, blacks were diagnosed at a younger age, were diagnosed with more advanced disease, and were less likely to have undergone surgery (45 percent versus 32 percent), when compared with whites.

The treatment type did not seem to be the reason for the disparity in outcomes, however. Even among the patients who had surgery, blacks had a shorter survival time than whites.

As for socioeconomic status, the patients who lived in communities where the poverty levels exceeded 15 percent were diagnosed with these cancers at a significantly younger age and with more advanced disease. Additionally, average survival time was shorter in patients who lived in areas of the highest poverty rates, regardless of the type of therapy that was received.

The authors of the study concluded that racial disparities continue to exist in head and neck cancer outcomes, and that socioeconomic factors also play a role.

"Earlier diagnosis, particularly in those from low socioeconomic status groups and amongst African-American patients, is needed to improve outcomes," they wrote.

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about head and neck cancers.

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