While cities have shown considerable racial disparities in cancer survival, those racial disparities virtually disappear among smaller populations, such as neighborhoods within that city. The finding comes from a new analysis published in the May 15, 2009 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. The study examined breast and prostate cancer survival rates at different geographic levels, and the results suggest that there are significant societal factors at the root of cancer-related racial disparities.
Previous research has shown that considerable health disparities exist relating to race, ethnicity, geographic location, and other factors. While researchers have been striving to understand the causes of such disparities in survival from some cancers, including cancers of the breast and prostate, the potential roles of innate factors, such as genetic differences, versus modifiable factors, such as socioeconomic differences, remain unclear.
The study revealed that whites experienced significantly higher survival rates for prostate and breast cancer compared with blacks throughout much of southern Michigan when large geographic regions were analyzed. However, when the investigators analyzed smaller geographic regions, such as legislative districts and community-defined neighborhoods, disparities diminished or virtually disappeared.
"When racial disparities vanish in small geographic areas, it suggests that modifiable factors are responsible for apparent racial disparities observed at larger geographic scales," the authors write. These modifiable factors could include socioeconomic factors, differences in tumor stage, differences in treatment and the presence of additional health conditions. It is unclear which of these are important, but this study's findings suggest that genetic factors are not likely to play a large role in disparities of survival from prostate and breast cancer. ###
Article: "Breast and prostate cancer survival in Michigan: can geographic analyses assist in understanding racial disparities?" Jaymie R. Meliker, Pierre Goovaerts, Geoffrey M. Jacquez, Gillian A. AvRuskin, and Glenn Copeland. CANCER; Published Online: April 13, 2009 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24251); Print Issue Date: May 15, 2009.
Contact: Greg Filiano at firstname.lastname@example.org. David Sampson American Cancer Society email@example.com . Claire Greenwell American Cancer Society firstname.lastname@example.org 404-417-5883 American Cancer Society