African-Americans with bladder cancer have lower survival rates

October 5, 2006

African-American patients with bladder cancer are 35% more likely to die of the disease than Caucasian patients are, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor.

African-American patients with bladder cancer are 35% more likely to die of the disease than Caucasian patients are, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor.

In a study of 93,093 patients with bladder cancer, the team found that African-American patients were diagnosed with more advanced disease and were more likely to have an aggressive type of tumor. In addition, African-American women in particular were more likely than Caucasian men or women and African-American men to have a more aggressive tumor (J Urol 2006; 176:927-34).

Using Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data, the researchers looked at patients diagnosed with bladder cancer between 1973 and 1999. Over the course of this time period, the percentage of patients diagnosed with early tumors that had not spread increased. But in the most recent time interval, 80% of Caucasian patients were diagnosed with early-stage cancer, compared with 68% of African-Americans.

“Many groups speculate that the racial disparity in bladder cancer is a result of African-Americans being diagnosed with more advanced disease. We found that while there is a disparity in the stage at diagnosis, there have also been some improvements,” said study author Cheryl Lee, MD. “African-American patients diagnosed with bladder cancer in more recent years have a higher rate of early-stage disease than those diagnosed in the earlier years. The problem is we are not seeing the clinical benefit of this, as African-American patients are still dying from bladder cancer at a higher rate than Caucasian patients.”

In this study, 24% of the African-American patients died of bladder cancer while 15% of the Caucasian patients did. Even when the team compared only the patients with early-stage disease, African-Americans had lower survival rates.