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Racial disparity in lung cancer treatment must be overcome, UCSF specialists assert

Preventing lung cancer is easier than curing it, and any barriers that inhibit blacks from full access to care must be removed, emphasize two doctors at the University of California , San Francisco.

In an editorial in the current issue (October 14) of The New England Journal of Medicine, UCSF co-authors Talmadge E. King, Jr., MD, and Paul Brunetta, MD, analyze study findings that suggest racial attitudes may contribute to the fact that blacks have a higher death rate from lung cancer than whites.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. and, overall, the five-year survival rate for the disease is 14 percent among whites and 11 percent among blacks.

The title of the editorial is "Racial Disparity in Rates of Surgery for Lung Cancer." The comments by King and Brunetta relate to new research results, reported by a team from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, that appear in the same NEJM issue.

The study covers surgical treatment and survival of close to 11,000 black patients and white patients age 65 and older with early stage lung cancer. Results showed that blacks were 12.7 percent less likely than whites to undergo surgical resection, and the research team concludes that if blacks were to undergo surgery for the disease at the same rate as whites, the survival rates for the two groups would be almost equal.

Putting these results into perspective, the UCSF co-authors note current clinical evaluation of surgical treatment by stating, "There is agreement that surgical resection saves lives in patients with early-stage, non-small-cell lung cancer."

They state further that any evidence that bias on the part of physicians--either overt prejudice or subconscious perceptions--influences optimum care is "disheartening because we all believe that if our loved ones get cancer, they will receive the best care possible." They also add that they don't know if this bias exis
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Contact: Corinna Kaarlela
ckaarlela@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-3804
University of California - San Francisco
14-Oct-1999


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