Race Shouldn't Make a Difference

... But it does: Black patients more likely to die of early-stage liver cancer than whites, Hispanics

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Black patients appear more likely to die of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) than Hispanic or white patients with the same condition.

Liver cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Survival rates for advanced-stage disease is only 5 percent, but those diagnosed earlier are more likely to be successfully treated. Treatment strategies from liver transplants to tumor ablations, among others, are only available in tertiary referral centers, but to obtain care in these centers, "patients need to overcome several barriers that may precipitate health care disparities along racial/ethnic lines and may have downstream effects on survival," said Amit K. Mathur, M.D., M.S., and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Of a total 6,316 patients, some 47.7 percent were white; 22.8 percent were Asian; 16.8 percent were Hispanic; 10.5 percent were black and 2.1 percent were categorized as other. Black and Hispanic patients were less likely to receive invasive therapy than whites, Asians and other patients.

Survival rates were 17.9 percent for all patients, but only 12.2 percent for blacks. Median (midpoint) survival periods were 15 months for Asians, 10 months for whites and Hispanics, and eight months for blacks.

"The most notable finding in our study was that racial/ethnic variation in hepatocellular carcinoma outcome is related to access and variable treatment effect from specific therapies," the authors write. "After adjusting for treatment effects, the racial/ethnic disparity in survival between black and white patients decreased but persisted."

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Review Date: 
December 21, 2010
Last Updated:
March 4, 2015