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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2005 Aug 17;97(16):1211-20.

Explaining black-white differences in receipt of recommended colon cancer treatment.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-4982, USA. lmb@fammed.washington.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Black-white disparities exist in receipt of recommended medical care, including colorectal cancer treatment. This retrospective cohort study examines the degree to which health systems (e.g., physician, hospital) factors explain black-white disparities in colon cancer care.

METHODS:

Data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program; Medicare claims; the American Medical Association Masterfile; and hospital surveys were linked to examine chemotherapy receipt after stage III colon cancer resection among 5294 elderly (> or = 66 years of age) black and white Medicare-insured patients. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with black-white differences in chemotherapy use. All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS:

Black and white patients were equally likely to consult with a medical oncologist, but among patients who had such a consultation, black patients were less likely than white patients (59.3% versus 70.4%, difference = 10.9%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 5.1% to 16.4%, P < .001) to receive chemotherapy. This black-white disparity was highest among patients aged 66-70 years (black patients 65.7%, white patients 86.3%, difference = 20.6%, 95% CI = 10.7% to 30.4%, P < .001) and decreased with age. The disparity among patients aged 66-70 years also remained statistically significant in the regression analysis. Overall, patient, physician, hospital, and environmental factors accounted for approximately 50% of the disparity in chemotherapy receipt among patients aged 66-70 years; surgical length of stay and neighborhood socioeconomic status accounted for approximately 27% of the disparity in this age group, and health systems factors accounted for 12%.

CONCLUSIONS:

Black and white Medicare-insured colon cancer patients have an equal opportunity to learn about adjuvant chemotherapy from a medical oncologist but do not receive chemotherapy equally. Little disparity was explained by health systems; more was explained by illness severity, social support, and environment. Further qualitative research is needed to understand the factors that influence the lower receipt of chemotherapy by black patients.

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