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Racial Disparities in Cancer Therapies Persist

Have not improved since the early 1990s

MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Racial disparities in cancer treatment that were first reported in the early 1990s still persist between black and white patients, according to study findings published online Jan. 7 in the journal Cancer.

Cary P. Gross, M.D., from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and colleagues examined racial disparities in cancer therapy using data on 143,512 elderly patients (aged 66-85 years) who were diagnosed with colorectal, breast, lung or prostate cancer between 1992 and 2002. Seven stage-specific cancer therapies were identified using Medicare claims.

The researchers found that black patients were significantly less likely than white patients to receive treatment for cancers of the lung, breast, colon and prostate. The proportion of patients receiving most therapies improved little or not at all, regardless of race. Racial disparities in treatment persisted during the study period, even after controlling for physician access before diagnosis.

"There has been little improvement in either the overall proportion of Medicare beneficiaries receiving cancer therapies or the magnitude of racial disparity," Gross and colleagues conclude. "Efforts in the last decade to mitigate cancer therapy disparities appear to have been unsuccessful."

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