Black Women Less Likely to Survive Endometrial Cancer

A study found that non-Hispanic blacks are more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease, and are more likely to die from it.

Researchers have found a significant racial disparity in the survival rates of women facing endometrial cancer. A recent study found non-Hispanic black women were more likely to die from endometrial cancer than women in other racial or ethnic groups, no matter what stage or subtype of the disease they had.

Endometrial cancer, a form of uterine cancer, is the most commonly diagnosed gynecological cancer in the United States, and the incidence is rising among all racial and ethnic groups. In 2015, an estimated 54,870 women across the country will be diagnosed with this form of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.

The new study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, sought  to determine whether death rates from the disease are equally distributed by race and ethnicity, said the study's lead author, Michele L. Cote, PhD, an associate professor of oncology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.

Researchers discovered that mortality rates for the aggressive endometrial cancer subtypes were more than 1.5 times higher among non-Hispanic black women compared with non-Hispanic white women. Asian and Hispanic women experienced similar or lower death rates compared with non-Hispanic white women.

The study used endometrial cancer incidence and mortality data from the SEER database.

The analysis of overall five-year survival rates showed that non-Hispanic black women had poorer survival rates at every stage of diagnosis, regardless of endometrial cancer subtype, compared with non-Hispanic white women, while five-year survival rates were similar or higher among Asian and Hispanic women compared with non-Hispanic white women.

Earlier research had suggested that the subtype of tumor or the stage at diagnosis might influence the outcome, but this study shows that may not be the case.

"Our data suggest that disparities persist even when these factors are controlled for," Dr. Cote said. "We are, therefore, interested in investigating whether there are molecular differences in endometrial tumors of the same subtype from women of different races or ethnicities diagnosed at the same stage of disease."

Dr. Cote also pointed out that socioeconomic factors did not appear to influence women's chances of survival. "It was somewhat surprising that the endometrial cancer survival disparity we identified was limited to non-Hispanic black women because many of the challenges previously linked to worse outcomes, including low socioeconomic status and high rates of obesity and diabetes, are also experienced by Hispanic women, but that population did not have poor outcomes," said Dr. Cote.

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