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Factors that influenced survival odds included marital status, income, and insurance status, the study found.
Factors that influenced survival odds included marital status, income, and insurance status, the study found.

Social Class May Influence Multiple Myeloma Survival

Social Class May Influence Multiple Myeloma Survival

Household income and education levels may play a bigger role than race or ethnicity in whether patients survive the bone marrow cancer multiple myeloma, a US study suggests.

Lots of previous research points to worse cancer survival odds for people of color. But this disparity might be due in large part to class issues like the type of insurance and access to care, the current study concludes.

“Race or ethnicity is mostly a marker for social factors such as poverty, insurance status, education level, etc. which is why we see that ethnic minority individuals experience worse health and health outcomes,” said Roshan Bastani, director of cancer disparities research at the University of California, Los Angeles Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, in an email to Reuters Health.

“It is not that race or ethnicity does not influence survival. Rather, the effect of race or ethnicity on survival is mostly explained by the negative social factors that are more common among racial and ethnic minority groups,” said Bastani, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Multiple myeloma is relatively rare; in the US, the lifetime risk of getting this type of cancer is 1 in 143, and the disease causes less than 13,000 deaths each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

Less than 1% of cases are diagnosed in people younger than 35.

Recent treatment for these tumors, which form in a type of white blood cell, have improved survival odds for white patients much more than for black patients, researchers of the current study note in the journal Cancer.

For the study, Dr. Luciano Costa, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and colleagues examined cancer registry data on more than 10,000 US patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma before age 65.

At the time of their diagnosis, half of the patients were at least 57 years old. Almost two-thirds were married, and most had health insurance.

Factors that influenced survival odds included marital status, income, and insurance status, the study found.

Without any socioeconomic disadvantages, about 71% of patients survived at least four years, the study found.

“This finding strongly suggests that there is a huge disparity in outcomes that could potentially be overcome by improving access and affordability of treatments,” Costa said.

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