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Racial disparity in cancer mortality rates may be linked to treatment location

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

When African American and Caucasian cancer patients are treated at similar specialized care facilities, their mortality rates are almost identical, new research has found. The findings indicate that the location of care may help account for previous studies which have identified racial disparities in cancer mortality.

In the study, a research team from the Dartmouth Medical School examined more than 200,000 medical records of patients who were treated with different forms of cancer between 1998 and 2003.

Lead investigator Tracy Onega and her colleagues found that the three-year mortality rate of African Americans was 23 percent higher than Caucasians when accounting for all cancer care settings.

However, when looking only at patients treated at National Cancer Institute Centers, the researchers found no significant racial differences in mortality rates. Furthermore, those who received care at NCI centers had lower rates of death than patients treated elsewhere, regardless of race.

"We have known for some time that African Americans die in greater numbers from cancer than Caucasians. The question is, why?" asked Onega.

"This research shows that where patients are treated can influence those outcomes significantly," she added.

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