Why are Poor Black and Hispanic Children Dying at Higher Rates From Childhood Cancer Than Whites?

What is the Disparity?

America is greatly divided by many things and race has always been one of them. Not only are there large social and economic divides among racial lines in the US, but also cancer survival rates differ among racial lines. New studies show that there may be a connection between the two.

The CDC says that Black people die at 25% higher rates than whites from cancer. Hispanic people and Latino people are at significantly greater risk of receiving a cancer diagnosis at a later stage and also have higher death rates.

Unfortunately, Black and Hispanic children are not immune to this, and they also die at higher rates from many childhood cancers than white kids.

The Study:

Is there a biological cause for the differences in survival rates for different races?

The University of Minnesota looked at information on 32,000 child cancer patients. These patients came from 19 different areas in the USA. The information in the study included patient’s races and also explained where they lived.

Researchers used census information to determine the income and poverty level of the children in the study.

The study shows that cancer survival rates were split across race.

The Results:

Black children were 38-95% more at risk of dying from one of nine cancers in the study when compared to white children.

Likewise, Hispanic children were 31-65% more at risk of dying than white children were.

Socioeconomic Factors Seemed to be Responsible for the Racial Differences.

44% of the difference between racial survival rates between blacks and whites is explained by socioeconomic status. Socioeconomic factors include a person’s social status in society, their income, education, and their job. All of these things affect a person’s chance of survival.

Similar results were found for Hispanic children.

Why the Gap?

Some scientists have been tempted to look at biological differences for the differing cancer survival rates between Black, Hispanic, and white people.

Karen Winkfield, who is a radiation oncologist and director for the Office of Cancer Health Equity in North Carolina, explains that people shouldn’t be surprised know that socioeconomic factors (such as income and education) are a major cause of Black and Hispanic people dying from cancer at higher rates. However, scientists have not been convinced until studies have started to prove this point.

What is Being Done?

Children who grow up in poor areas or with limited income have greater risks for cancer. Researchers want to know more about how poverty affects children’s health.

One reason children may have higher cancer rates is because children with lower social standing and resources are exposed to carcinogens more often than well-off kids. Also, Black and Hispanic families may not have access to screenings and treatments for their children. Parents may struggle with transportation or financial means for screenings and treatment or be unable to take the time off work.

Winkfield wants to see a larger conversation about race and bias happen. Doing the study is the first step, but now she hopes to see an action plan put into place about how to make a difference today for Black and Hispanic families and children.

“There are children who die who should not die because their parents are poor,” Winkfield says. “What does this say about our society?”

Read the original article here.


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