A new study I reviewed today had me yodeling off of my deck with joy. A comparison of black patients and white lung cancer patients in the U.S. Military Health System (MHS), found that there was no significant difference between the two groups in survival rates.
Honestly, this might not seem like something I should be celebrating. Shouldn't the survival rates for lung cancer be similar among black patients and white patients?
Unfortunately, other studies have found a significant survival difference, with black patients having a higher mortality rate and shorter survival times. Many reasons for the discrepancy have been postulated as well - citing everything from a lack of health insurance to foregoing potentially curative surgery due to a fear that surgery causes lung cancer to spread.
In the current study, over 10,000 lung cancer patients were compared with regard to race and survival rate. As noted above, there was no difference in survival rates based on race. In fact, when it came to small cell lung cancer (as opposed to non-small cell lung cancers like adenocarcinomas, large cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas), the black patients in this study fared better.
What's exciting about this - beyond of course, the wonderful news that survival was the same - is that this study may help to narrow the possible reasons for discrepancies in survival seen in other studies. Perhaps if blacks and whites are given equal access to lung cancer treatment, these differences can disappear in the future. And that's a reason to stand on my deck and sing.
What do we know about racial discrepancies when it comes to lung cancer?
- Blacks Less Likely to Receive Lung Cancer Treatment
- Racial Disparities in Cancer Vary With Treatment Location
- Race and Sex Differences in Timely Lung Cancer Treatment
Zheng, L. et al. Lung cancer survival among black and white patients in an equal access health system. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention. 2012 Aug 16. (Epub ahead of print)