SATURDAY, Oct. 2, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Race does not appear to play a role in how long a black patient or a white patient with lung cancer will ultimately survive the disease, researchers report.
"In simple terms, if 100 patients who are [white] and 100 patients who are [black] have the same age, stage of cancer, type of lung cancer and are treated the same way, there should not be differences in their survival just because they are of different races," Dr. Rajesh Sehgal, a medical oncologist at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center in Huntington, W. Va., said in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research.
"[Black] patients did have lesser median overall survival, but after compensating for all other factors that affect prognosis, such as age, stage and type of treatment, [black] race was not an independent prognostic factor for poor survival," added Sehgal, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
The study also indicated patients of other races or ethnic groups -- including Asian and Hispanic patients -- had a slightly better disease prognosis when compared with African-American and white patients, indicating there may be biological differences in the tumors in these groups of people, the study authors said.
Sehgal's team was scheduled to present their observations Saturday at the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held this week in Miami.
The study authors gleaned their findings from data drawn from the Cancer Information Resource File, which included more than 130,500 patients who had been diagnosed with lung cancer between 2003 and 2008.
A little more than 91 percent of the patients were white, 6.5 percent were black, and 2.1 percent were "other," the researchers noted.
Being male and older than 70 were factors that appeared to be linked to a poorer prognosis overall, the investigators found, and black patients were more likely to receive their diagnosis before they reached age 70 than were white patients (67 percent versus 54 percent, respectively).
Radiation therapy improved outcomes, and those with a particular form of non-small cell lung cancer (known as bronchoalveolar lung cancer) did better than other lung cancer patients. In addition, patients who received chemotherapy had a 43 percent higher survival rate than those who didn't, while surgery offered a 60 percent survival boost, according to information in the news release.
Black patients were found to be less likely to have surgery than white patients, and more likely to have their illness diagnosed when their cancer had already spread.
That said, the authors concluded that the slight difference in survival rates between blacks and whites was not attributable to race. On average, they found that white patients survived about 10 months after diagnosis while black survival rates hovered around nine months. The survival rate was 11.8 months for patients of other races, the study authors said.
"If possible, we would like to look in to the tumor biology of 'other' races to see when differences exist in their tumors as compared to [white] and [black] patients, and whether these differences might account for their better prognosis," Sehgal said.
For more on lung cancer and treatment options, visit the American Lung Association.