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Do Racial Disparities Exist in Mesothelioma Treatment Success?

There have been a number of studies done on the differences in incidences of mesothelioma between black patients and white patients, as well as in the effectiveness and range of treatments provided to both groups. Recently researchers from the department of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center and the department of population health at Hofstra North Shore School of Medicine reopened that question, reviewing data previously gathered in order to determine what those differences are and what measures need to be taken.

The group analyzed the data in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Database (SEER), which was collected between 1973 and 2009 and which included nearly 14,000 mesothelioma patients. The information revealed that black patients who had been diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma typically had longer survival times than did their white peers, even though they were frequently not provided with the option for aggressive surgery that white patients were. This result is remarkable since it is generally assumed that the surgery yields better outcomes.

According to thoracic surgeon and mesothelioma specialist Dr. Andrea Wolf, “It’s the largest series ever studied and it sheds light on some differences that we need to look at more closely to help these patients.” There were many more white patients in the study than blacks, with just under 700 black mesothelioma patients as compared to just over 13,000 whites. This dramatic difference in incidence rates was also marked by a higher percentage of young females among the blacks, who were also much more likely to be further advanced in their disease state. The researchers found that where white patients had a mean survival of 15.5 months, the black patients mean survival was more than a month longer at 16.7 months, but that while only 18 percent of the black patients underwent aggressive surgery 24 percent of the white patients had.

Of the white patients who were not provided surgery, 7.9 percent lived three years or more, with 3.5 percent surviving more than five years, while among the black patients who did not have aggressive surgery, 10.6 percent lived three years or more and 6.7 percent lived five years or more.

In comparing the variables that pointed to longer survival rates, among white patients they were younger age, having had cancer-directed surgery, earlier diagnosis and being female. Among black patients neither being female nor being diagnosed earlier were factors. Though the researchers believe that the stark difference in number of black patients identified as having mesothelioma versus white patients was tied to occupational exposure, with more whites being exposed to asbestos than blacks, they also speculate that there might be an absence of diagnosis, as well as surgical options in their community

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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