Young Americans who live in urban areas or live with low income or low education levels are more likely to die if they get colon cancer, a new study finds.
"There are a lot of disparities in health care," said lead investigator Dr. Ashley Matusz-Fisher, an internist at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C. "It is important to look at the sociodemographic disparities so that we can learn more and try to eliminate them."
She and her colleagues analyzed information from nearly 27,000 U.S. patients from a national database, aged 40 and younger, who were diagnosed with colon cancer between 2004 and 2016.
Those patients who lived in areas with the lowest income -- under $38,000 per year -- and least education -- high school graduation rate below 79 percent -- had a 24 percent higher risk of premature death than those from areas with the most income and education, the study found.
Patients in urban areas had a 10 percent higher risk of death than those in the suburbs, regardless of income.
Among patients diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, those in the poorest areas had worse overall survival than others, according to the researchers.
They also found that patients in the lowest income areas were more likely to be black, lack private health insurance, have a greater number of other health problems, and to be diagnosed with more-advanced cancer.
The study is scheduled for presentation Saturday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in San Francisco. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Although awareness of health care disparities has increased, considerable knowledge gaps still exist, particularly among young adults with cancer," said study senior author Dr. Mohamed Salem, a gastrointestinal oncologist at the Levine Cancer Institute. "Therefore more effort to increase awareness regarding health care disparities is warranted to provide access and remove barriers to care so that we can eliminate disparities and achieve health equity," Salem said in a meeting news release.
Every year, more than 16,000 people under 50 are diagnosed with colon cancer in the United States. Rates in this age group are up 51 percent since 1994, with the sharpest increase among those in their 20s.
The American Cancer Society has more on colon cancer.
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