U.S. blacks continue to get inferior cancer treatment compared to whites, researchers said on Monday in a study showing that disparities first documented in the early 1990s persist despite efforts to erase them.
The researchers assessed the type of treatment given to more than 143,000 Americans over age 65 for lung, breast, colon, rectal and prostate cancer from 1992 to 2002 under the Medicare government health insurance program.
Black patients were consistently less likely than whites to receive the recommended types of treatment, the study found, and the problem was just as bad in 2002 as in 1992.
The findings were published in the journal Cancer, published by the American Cancer Society.
"What we found was that the racial disparities did not change during that 10-year time interval," Dr. Cary Gross of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
Among patients with early-stage lung cancer, blacks were 19 percent less likely than whites to get surgical removal of the tumor. Blacks with rectal cancer were 27 percent less likely to get additional chemotherapy to get rid of any remaining cancer cells after surgical removal of a tumor. And blacks with colon cancer were 24 percent less likely to get such chemotherapy.
Among breast cancer patients who had a lumpectomy, black women were 7 percent less likely than whites to get radiation therapy. And black men diagnosed with prostate cancer were 11 percent less likely to get surgical or radiation treatment.
"It documents the inequities in our society more so than documenting racism among individual providers," Gross said.
But hey, the free market will fix it, right?