Researchers Discuss Minorities And Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture

Minorities And Cancer

Researchers this weekpresented studies and reports on minorities and cancer. The followingsummarizes recent news coverage on the AmericanAssociation for Cancer Research conference, "The Science of Cancer Health Disparities inRacial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved."

Invasive Breast Cancer

Researchers at the University of Chicago looked at 1,246 women with stage Ior stage II invasive breast cancer who were being treated with lumpectomy and radiation.Almost 85% of white women were still living and were free of breast cancereight years after treatment, compared with 78.1% of black women. According tothe study, 31.6% of black women experienced a breast cancer relapse eight yearsafter treatment, compared with 14.9% of all other women. The authors suggestedthat current mammography screening guidelines be revised to benefit blackwomen.

Tumor Gene Profiles

National Cancer Institute researchers looked at differencesin gene profiles of tumors and how tumor cells interact with the immune system.They found that many of the same genes in tumors are active in inflammatorydiseases, such as chronic colitis. According to HealthDay/Forbes, research previously has linkedinflammatory conditions and cancer.

Auxiliary Lymph Node Dissection

Researchersat the American Cancer Society looked at data on about 200,000women to see who received auxiliary lymph node dissection, a diagnostic testthat can determine whether breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body.Eleven percent of women in the study group did not undergo the procedure. Accordingto the study:

  • Black women were 10% less likely than white women to have their lymph nodes accurately assessed;

  • Women in areas with low education levels were 13% less likely than those in higher-education areas to undergo the test; and

  • Women ages 73 or older were three times less likely than women ages 51 or younger to undergo the procedure. While the test is considered optional for elderly women, the finding still surprised researchers, according to HealthDay/Forbes (HealthDay/Forbes [1], 11/29).

Hispanic Immigrant CancerEducation


Nashville, Tenn.-arearesearchers and community groups surveyed cancer care and prevention needs of500 Hispanics whose average age was 35. Ninety-eight percent of respondentswere not born in the U.S.,more than half had emigrated from Mexico, 80% were uninsured,two-thirds had not completed high school and 55% spoke little or no English.

Respondents chose cancer as their top concern, out of 25 health topics. About75% said they wanted to learn more about cancer prevention and more than halfsaid they wanted more information on cancer screening. In addition, manyrespondents said they would participate in a clinical trial if they had cancer.Further, more than 90% of respondents with daughters under age 18 said theywould "probably" or "definitely" approve of their daughtersreceiving the human papillomavirus vaccine at no cost. HPV is linked tocervical cancer.

Pamela Hull, the lead investigator and associate director of TennesseeStateUniversity's Center for Health Research, said, "Our local Hispanic community has grown nearly sevenfoldover the last decade, yet we do not know much, if anything, about theircancer-related needs. Our survey has found that members of the NashvilleHispanic community are overwhelmingly interested in cancer prevention andhealth care efforts -- including cancer clinical trials and cervical cancervaccination -- yet the community generally lacks access to care andinformation" (HealthDay/Forbes [2], 11/29).

American Indians andCancer Awareness

Researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center examined the cancer views of about200,000 members of the Navajo Nation who live in the Navajo Reservation,which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.According to the report, Navajos are aware of and interested in colorectalscreening, but they have lower than average colorectal screening rates. Only16% of those surveyed at two annual tribal festivals on the reservation hadreported ever receiving a colorectal cancer screening. In addition, 55% ofthose surveyed at two Indian Health Service hospitals had heard of colorectalscreening but only 30% underwent the screening. Further, only half of elderlytribal members underwent the screening.

Priscilla Sanderson, who surveyed Navajos at the festivals, said, "Part ofthe problem involves public health resources, but there is a definite culturalcomponent that has inadvertently stood in the way of cancer awareness."

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, many Navajos do not speak Englishas their primary language and about 47% speak only Navajo, which does not havea specific word for cancer. Sanderson said, "There is really no word forcancer that all people on the reservation would look at as cancer."

She added that the study, while not providing a full picture of Navajo'scolorectal cancer awareness, could help boost awareness and provide a base forfurther research (Rosetta, Salt Lake Tribune, 11/30).

Diet-Cancer Connection

According to researchers atJohns Hopkins University, many African-American women livingin Washington, D.C., public housing do not have the healthyeating habits that could reduce their risk for cancer, Reuters reports (Bigg, Reuters, 11/28).

The study examined 156 women living in Washington, D.C., public housing. Researcherscalculated participants' daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, alcohol,calories, percentage of fat intake and adherence to USDA'sHealthy Eating Index, which measures the overall quality of diet. Researchersfound that 61% of participants met none or one of five goals for maintaining ahealthy diet. Fewer than 1% of the participants met all the standards in eachcategory, although 64% reported no alcohol consumption on the days they wereinterviewed (Reuters, 11/28). The standards were suggested as waysto reduce cancer risk (AACR release, 11/28).

The study also found that younger women were more likely to eat unhealthy,convenience food than older women. Younger women also appeared to lack theskills needed to develop a healthy diet, according to the study. The study alsofound a link between depression, smoking and poor diet.

Ann Klassen, an associate professor at JohnsHopkinsUniversity's Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "African-American women ... face aworse cancer incidence and mortality rate than most other ethnic groups, andpoor African-American women are at an even greater disadvantage" (Reuters,11/28). She added, "Improving diet is one effective way to help thesewomen lower their risk for developing cancer" (AARC release, 11/28).

Klassen said, "We believe that there are structural factors in societythat make it more difficult for low-income people to modify their lifestyle ina way that they might know are healthy" (Reuters, 11/28).

Reprintedwith permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at . The Kaiser Weekly Health DisparitiesReport is published for, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.