, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 881-888
Date: 07 Nov 2007

Racial Disparities in Esophageal Cancer Treatment and Outcomes

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Abstract

Purpose

Blacks have a higher mortality rate than whites from esophageal cancer, but the reasons underlying this disparity remain unclear. In this study, we used a national sample of patients with resectable esophageal cancer to assess the extent to which racial inequalities in care can explain outcome disparities.

Methods

We identified all non-Hispanic white and black patients diagnosed with T0–T2, node-negative esophageal cancer between 1988 and 2003 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry. Racial differences in esophageal-specific survival were assessed using the Kaplan-Meier method. We performed Cox regression to test for racial differences in survival after adjusting for potential confounders and to assess the extent to which disparities can be explained by later diagnosis or treatment inequalities.

Results

A total of 1522 patients were included in the study. Blacks had worse esophageal-specific survival rates than whites (37% vs 60% 5-year survival; P < .0001). Blacks were more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage and to have squamous cell tumors, but were less likely to undergo surgery. In multivariate regression controlling for age, sex, marital status, histology, and tumor location, black race was associated with worse survival. When tumor status, surgery, and radiotherapy were added to the model, race was no longer significantly associated with survival.

Conclusion

These data suggest that blacks are at greater risk of death from esophageal cancer. While the disparity is due in part to differences in tumor histology, diagnosis at an earlier stage and higher rates of surgery among blacks could reduce this survival disparity.