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Cancer. 2011 Jul 15;117(14):3242-51. doi: 10.1002/cncr.25854. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Effects of individual-level socioeconomic factors on racial disparities in cancer treatment and survival: findings from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study, 1979-2003.

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  • 1University of Texas School of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology, Houston, Texas, USA.



This is the first study to use the linked National Longitudinal Mortality Study and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data to determine the effects of individual-level socioeconomic factors (health insurance, education, income, and poverty status) on racial disparities in receiving treatment and in survival.


This study included 13,234 cases diagnosed with the 8 most common types of cancer (female breast, colorectal, prostate, lung and bronchus, uterine cervix, ovarian, melanoma, and urinary bladder) at age ≥ 25 years, identified from the National Longitudinal Mortality Study-SEER data during 1973 to 2003. Kaplan-Meier methods and Cox regression models were used for survival analysis.


Three-year all-cause observed survival for cases diagnosed with local-stage cancers of the 8 leading tumors combined was ≥ 82% regardless of race/ethnicity. More favorable survival was associated with higher socioeconomic status. Compared with whites, blacks were less likely to receive first-course cancer-directed surgery, perhaps reflecting a less favorable stage distribution at diagnosis. Hazard ratio (HR) for cancer-specific mortality was significantly higher among blacks compared with whites (HR, 1.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-1.3) after adjusting for age, sex, and tumor stage, but not after further controlling for socioeconomic factors and treatment (HR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.9-1.1). HRs for all-cause mortality among patients with breast cancer and for cancer-specific mortality in patients with prostate cancer were significantly higher for blacks compared with whites after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, treatment, and patient and tumor characteristics.


Favorable survival was associated with higher socioeconomic status. Racial disparities in survival persisted after adjusting for individual-level socioeconomic factors and treatment for patients with breast and prostate cancer.

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