Effects of Cancer Stage and Treatment Differences on Racial Disparities in Survival from Colon Cancer: A United States Population-Based Study

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Journal Article

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Colorectal Cancer; CRC; Outcome; Race


© 2016 AGA Institute. Background & Aims We evaluated differences in treatment of black vs white patients with colon cancer and assessed their effects on survival, based on cancer stage. Methods We collected data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database and identified 6190 black and 61,951 white patients with colon cancer diagnosed from 1998 through 2009 and followed up through 2011. Three sets of 6190 white patients were matched sequentially, using a minimum distance strategy, to the same set of 6190 black patients based on demographic (age; sex; diagnosis year; and Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry), tumor presentation (demographic plus comorbidities, tumor stage, grade, and size), and treatment (presentation plus therapies) variables. We conducted sensitivity analyses to explore the effects of socioeconomic status in a subcohort that included 2000 randomly selected black patients. Racial differences in treatment were assessed using a logistic regression model; their effects on racial survival disparity were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and the Cox proportional hazards model. Results After patients were matched for demographic variables, the absolute 5-year difference in survival between black and white patients was 8.3% (white, 59.2% 5-y survival; blacks, 50.9% 5-y survival) (P <.0001); this value decreased significantly, to 5.0% (P <.0001), after patients were matched for tumor presentation, and decreased to 4.9% (P <.0001) when patients were matched for treatment. Differences in treatment therefore accounted for 0.1% of the 8.3% difference in survival between black and white patients. After patients were matched for tumor presentation, racial disparities were observed in almost all types of treatment; the disparities were most prominent for patients with advanced-stage cancer (stages III or IV, up to an 11.1% difference) vs early stage cancer (stages I or II, up to a 4.3% difference). After patients were matched for treatment, there was a greater reduction in disparity for black vs white patients with advanced-stage compared with early-stage cancer. In sensitivity analyses, the 5-year racial survival disparity was 7.7% after demographic match, which was less than the 8.3% observed in the complete cohort. This reduction likely was owing to the differences between the subcohort and the complete cohort in those variables that were not included in the demographic match. This value was reduced to 6.5% (P =.0001) after socioeconomic status was included in the demographic match. The difference decreased significantly to 2.8% (P =.090) after tumor presentation match, but was not reduced further after treatment match. Conclusions We observed significant disparities in treatment and survival of black vs white patients with colon cancer. The disparity in survival appears to have been affected more strongly by tumor presentation at diagnosis than treatment. The effects of treatment differences on disparities in survival were greater for patients with advanced-stage vs early-stage cancer.