Monday, January 25, 2010
Even though they receive equal treatment, black patients with liver cancer have lower survival rates than patients of other races
Researchers analyzed data from 20,920 patients in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry who were diagnosed with liver cancer between 1973 and 2004. The researchers also examined data from 4,735 United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) liver cancer patients who had liver transplantation between 1987 and 2008. Over time, survival for liver cancer patients in all racial, ethnic and income groups has improved due to advances in screening, diagnosis and treatment. Among patients in the SEER registry, black and low-income liver cancer patients had the poorest long-term survival. Compared to whites, black patients had a 15% increased risk of death, while Asians had a 13% reduced risk, the researchers found. The reasons for the survival disparities aren't clear, but may be due to differences in patients' underlying disease and in access to appropriate care. But even when the researchers adjusted for the type of therapy received by patients, blacks did worse than patients of other races. Among patients who had liver transplants, blacks had poorer survival than all other groups of patients. This shows that racial and ethnic survival disparities can't be explained by differences in access to care alone.