Segregation Linked To Higher Lung Cancer Rates For Blacks, New Study Says

January 21, 2013  |  

Those living in a highly segregated community could face a bigger lung cancer threat, according to a new study.

The New York Times reports on new research that found a link between segregation and the deadly disease. In this first such study to look at segregation as a factor in lung cancer mortality, it’s not the segregation itself that leads to the higher incidence of cancer deaths. The authors of the study theorize that African Americans in more segregated counties may be less likely to have health insurance or access to health care and specialty doctors. Plus, lower levels of education could possibly mean that they are less likely to seek care early. And lastly but probably most importantly, racial bias in the health care system might also be a factor.

“If you want to learn about someone’s health, follow him home,” Dr. Awori J. Hayanga, a heart and lung surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who was the lead author of the study, told the newspaper.

The study was published in JAMA Surgery, and it divided all counties in the country into three levels of segregation: high, medium, and low. According to the data analyzed, lung cancer mortality rates were nearly 20 percent higher for blacks who lived in the most segregated counties, than for blacks living in the least segregated counties.

African Americans in general have the highest incidence of lung cancer and are more likely to die from it. And according to the American Lung Association, black women tend to smoke less than white women but the two groups have similar lung cancer rates.

The authors of the study hope that this will draw attention to “the environmental factors involved in the stark disparities in health outcomes in the United States because they lend themselves to change through policy,” writes the Times.

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