Race Could Be a Factor in Head, Neck Cancer Survival Rates

Science Daily, June 5, 2014

The national survival rates for African-Americans diagnosed with head and neck cancer have not improved in the last 40 years despite advances in the treatment and management of the disease, University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers have found in a new study.

More than 52,000 men and women in the United States currently are living with head and neck cancer. Using data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, epidemiology and end results (SEER) program, MU researchers under the guidance of Mosharraf Hossain, MD, assistant professor in the MU School of Medicine’s Division of Hematology and Oncology and physician with Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia, Mo., studied the survival trend of five ethnic groups over the last 40 years. The researchers found that despite advances in treatment options, the prognosis for African-Americans with head and neck cancer has not improved.

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By analyzing data collected from 1973 to 2010 on 247,310 head and neck cancer patients nationwide, the researchers found that the incidence of head and neck cancer was higher in African-Americans than in Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, or Asian-Indian and Alaskan natives. All of these ethnic groups except African-Americans showed improved five-year survival rates over a 40-year period. African-Americans had a significantly decreased five-year overall survival rate of 41.8 percent, compared with 60.8 percent survival for Caucasians, 59.3 percent survival for Hispanics, 62 percent survival for Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 50.2 percent survival for Asian-Indian and Alaskan natives.

“One commonly held theory is that socioeconomic status, access to health care and the stage in which the cancer is diagnosed all play a major role in the survival rates of African-Americans with head and neck cancer,” Raza said. “However, these factors are not completely accurate predictors of a patient’s prognosis.”

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The researchers suggest that inherent genetic factors in African-Americans may make some tumors resistant to treatments. {snip}

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