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Poorer Thyroid Cancer Survival in African-Americans

Difference in survival rates may be due to differences in disease characteristics

THURSDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- African-Americans (AAs) with thyroid cancer have a poorer survival rate than whites, which may be attributed to differences in disease characteristics, according to a study published online June 21 in Ethnicity & Disease.

Christopher S. Hollenbeak, Ph.D., from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey, and colleagues investigated whether five-year survival rates differed for thyroid cancer between AA and white patients and whether the rates were affected by patient and disease characteristics. A total of 25,210 whites and 1,692 AAs who received a diagnosis of thyroid cancer from 1992 to 2006 were included. Five-year survival, defined as death from cancer within five-years of diagnosis, was the main outcome measure studied.

The investigators identified a significantly lower five-year survival rate in AAs than whites (96.5 percent versus 97.4 percent; P = 0.006). Compared to white patients, AA patients were 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with anaplastic disease (risk ratio [RR], 2.33) and were significantly more likely to have follicular disease (RR, 1.78). Larger tumors (≥4 cm) were significantly more likely to occur in AAs than in whites (RR, 1.94).

"Although African-Americans have poorer survival relative to white patients, much of this difference is explained by differences in disease characteristics. The large tumors, follicular histology, older age, and relatively high rate of anaplastic cancer among African-Americans may explain the poorer outcomes," the authors write.

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