When we look at cancer survival, the US is very sharply divided when it comes to race. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that African-American cancer death rates are 25% higher than the death rates for whites and even Latinos are much more likely to have cancer at later and more dangerous stages of the dreaded disease.
And it seems that kids also exhibit this disparity as well. Black and Hispanic kids are much more apt to die of these childhood cancers than white kids will. So the obvious question is why do we have such a survival gap between these groups of kids?
According to an epidemiologist named Rebecca Kehm, the answer might actually lie in society and not inside a test tube or in the patient’s race. In a recent report published in the journal called Cancer, Kehm and her associates point to the various socioeconomic factors as a potential determinant in cancer survival rates among children.
Does Socioeconomic Status Affect Cancer Survival Rates?
Scientists search for a while trying to find a biological reason for these different cancer survival rates between the races. Kehm felt that a person’s socioeconomic status — which is a measure of a person’s social standing, their income level, their education level, and their occupation — will affect an adults’ odds of surviving cancer. When faced with racism and an institutional bias, this helps black and non-white Hispanic people continue to live in in regions of concentrated poverty. Perhaps this would also explain why children are also suffering from these elevated cancer death rates as well.
“We know that there are socioeconomic differences that are closely tied to race ethnicity,” stated Kehm. “I wanted to show that there are other factors at play than the genetic component.”
Kehm and other researchers from the University of Minnesota examined data from around 32,000 young cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), which is a database of cancer stats that have been gathered from some 19 different geographic regions throughout the US. Each piece of SEER data features a statistical look of a single patient, which included their race along with the region of their home. These patients were all diagnosed between the years of 2000 and 2012.
What Researchers Discovered
These researchers assessed the poverty status of each cancer patients’ neighborhood, by examining their census tract data. After that, they performed a statistical analysis to assess the influence of living within a poverty stricken neighborhood and how it might affect a child’s chance of surviving their cancer.
To begin with, the study affirmed what many researchers knew already: Race certainly affects a child’s probability of surviving their cancer. Black kids were between 38 and 95% more likely to die from the 9 cancers that were studied, and Hispanic kids were between 31 and 65% more likely to die.
So could their poverty level explain away these disparities? In almost half of these types of cancer cases evaluated, the answer to this question was a resounding yes. Socioeconomic status appeared to account for the racial differences of several cancers, among them were acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, neuroblastoma, and even non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
For instance, a black kid who attracts acute lymphoblastic leukemia is 43% more likely to pass away than white children with the exact same cancer. When economic status was taken into account, this child would just be 17% more likely to die. Overall, the socioeconomic status accounted for 44% of the disparity between white and black kids. And it explained the disparity for Hispanic kids as well.
Read more – https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/08/20/640284696/why-are-black-and-latino-kids-more-likely-to-die-of-certain-cancers