Wiley Logo For long, scientists have apparently highlighted the role of racial disparities in cancer. A team of experts suggests that insurance, social and economic status is not involved with disparities in breast cancer. The study findings call for need of a better understanding about disparities in breast cancer care and accurate availability of equal and effective treatments to all affected women.

Prior investigations have ascertained that black and Hispanic women are less likely to be provided with recommended breast cancer treatments than white women. A few studies have also suggested that quality of care depends upon socioeconomic status and health insurance of the patient. Breast cancer care may generally include localized therapy, hormone receptor testing, hormonal therapy, and chemotherapy. Availability of these treatments was assessed in a large national sample of women with breast cancer. Factors like insurance and socioeconomic status were apparently linked with observed racial/ethnic differences in care.

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and the lead investigator, quoted, “Although health insurance expansion may resolve disparities in treatment by health insurance status, this study suggests that expansion alone is unlikely to have a major impact on disparities in breast cancer care among black women.”

Data about 662,117 white, black, and Hispanic women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 1998 to 2005 at National Cancer Data Base (NCDB) hospitals was thoroughly scrutinized. While 86 percent women were white and 10 percent black, 4 percent were Hispanic. From the total number of participants, 51 percent were with a private insurance and 41 percent had Medicare. As compared to whites, black women seemingly had 0.91 times lower odds of receiving recommended local therapy. In order to be provided with hormonal therapy, black women reported 0.90 times lower odds than white women. Black women shared 0.87 times lower odds for being subjected to chemotherapy.

White women were possibly more able to receive hormonal therapy than Hispanic women. No race/ethnicity variation appeared in the hormone receptor testing. The results were noted after taking insurance and socioeconomic status into consideration. It was concluded that modest racial differences in the reception of recommended breast cancer care seem to continue even after taking patients’ insurance and socioeconomic status into account. Experts suggest that multifaceted efforts are essential for providing effective treatments to all women with breast cancer.

The study is published online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.