Lower Survival Among Native Am Study Population

Lower Survival Rates Found in Native Americans with Cancer

Researchers Find Lower Survival Rates in Native Americans with Cancer

Montana researchers report Native Americans with cancer have a significantly lower survival rate than other American cancer patients.

In a study published in a recent issue of the journal Cancer (Vol. 89, No. 1), researchers note that this difference canít be explained by variations in age or stage of disease at diagnosis or the type of treatment received.

Lead study author Terry D. Dennis, M.D., MPH, of the Billings Areas Indian Health Service in Billings, Mt., points out the findings of this study are consistent with the results of earlier studies about survival rates of Native Americans.

The researchers found the five-year cancer survival rate for Native Americans was 36 percent compared with a survival rate of 47 percent among other Americans. In basic terms, this means that among study subjects, 36 percent of Native Americans were alive five years after their cancer diagnosis, compared to 47 percent of other study participants.

Dr. Dennis and his colleagues at first believed the stage of cancer at diagnosis might have been more advanced in the Montana American Indian populations and also that different medical treatment may explain the differences in survival rates.

But the researchers found that was not the case when they compared 522 cases of American Indians with cancer to an identical number of cancer cases among non-Native Americans identified through the Tumor Registry and Indian Health Services.

A statistically significant decrease in survival was found between Montana American Indians and other study subjects. But no statistical differences in the stage of cancer diagnosis or the age of the patient were found.

Lifestyle Factors Difficult to Assess

Researchers noted that comparing Native Americans to non-Native Americans is difficult because of varying access to doctors Ė both primary care doctors and cancer specialists.

They note that environmental factors such as lifestyle behaviors like tobacco and alcohol use also are difficult to assess and measure and were not addressed by this study.

The researchers suggest if these lifestyle issues could be addressed, some of the survival differences might disappear.

Another factor that may contribute to the survival differences is that Native Americans have a higher risk of dying from noncancer related causes, which means survival differences may extend beyond the scope of cancer.

Although deaths from causes other than cancer did not make a large contribution to the observed differences in overall survival rates, the interactions between cancer and other diseases. For example, having other health problems may limit a patientís ability to tolerate full doses of certain anti-cancer treatments.

Dr. Dennis concludes more studies are needed to gain understanding of these survival differences so that steps can be taken to improve the outlook for Native Americans with cancer.

Cancer Vol. 89, No. 1, July, 2000


Impact of Cancer Survivors: Native Am Prevent/Treat

Cancer, 10/96

Native American Resources

Sites, articles More to come, also see Treatment:A Consumer's View of Alt Med

Lung cancer: American Indians & Alaska Natives & whites

J Cancer, jUNE 2010


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