Deadly Zip Codes

Lung cancer mortality higher in black men living in highly segregated communities

(RxWiki News) Where someone lives has an impact on their health. Everything from air pollution to healthcare access affects a person’s health, well-being and likelihood of dying. This appears to be true with regards to lung cancer deaths.

Black men who live in highly segregated areas in the United States were more likely than white men to die of lung cancer, according to a new study. This trend was not impacted by socioeconomic status and appears to be greatest in the most segregated communities in America.

Just the opposite pattern was seen for white men, with those living in the most segregated communities having lower mortality.

Understanding these trends could help find better, more effective ways to treat black men with lung cancer.

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Awori J. Hayanga, MD, MPH, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University of Washington in Seattle, led the study. He and his team conducted a population-based study looking at race and lung cancer mortality and how these patterns were affected by where an individual lived.

Researchers examined every county in the US using data from the 2009 Area Resource File and Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER).

The authors wrote, “The overall lung cancer mortality rate was higher for blacks than whites (58.9 percent vs. 52.4 percent per 100,000 population).”

In terms of geography, the researchers categorized every county as being low, moderate or high segregation. The most highly segregated areas were found in the Northeast, Midwest and South. The lowest segregation was in the Northwest.

According to the study authors, "Blacks living in counties with the highest levels of segregation had a 10 percent higher mortality rate than those residing in counties with the lowest level of segregation. This increase was not observed among the white population, and, in contradistinction, the mortality rate was 3 percent lower among whites living in the most segregated counties when compared with those living in the least segregated counties," the authors wrote.

“Our data confirm that blacks have been disproportionately affected by segregation and that the greater the segregation, the worse the lung cancer outcomes for this community,” the researchers wrote. "The opposing effect on whites was an unexpected finding."

The authors concluded, “Understanding the role, however, played by residential segregation in perpetuating negative outcomes may be invaluable in eliminating disparities altogether.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. An estimated 228,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 159,500 (87,300 men and 72,200 women) will die from lung cancer.

This research was published in the January issue of JAMA Surgery. The US Department of Veteran Affairs funded this study. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
January 30, 2013