, Volume 93, Issue 1, pp 25-39
Date: 09 May 2009

Racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the treatment of brain tumors

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Disparities in American health care based on socially-defined patient characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic position are well-documented. We review differences and disparities in incidence, pathobiology, processes and outcomes of care, and survival based on social factors for brain tumors of all histologies. In the US, black patients have lower incidences of most brain tumor types and lower-income patients have lower incidences of low grade glioma, meningioma and acoustic neuroma; ascertainment bias may contribute to these findings. Pathogenetic differences between malignant gliomas in patients of different races have been demonstrated, but their clinical significance is unclear. Patients in disadvantaged groups are less often treated by high-volume providers. Mortality and morbidity of initial treatment are higher for brain tumor patients in disadvantaged groups, and they present with markers of more severe disease. Long term survival differences between malignant glioma patients of different races have not yet been shown. Clinical trial enrollment appears to be lower among brain tumor patients from disadvantaged groups. We propose future research both to better define disparities and to alleviate them.