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Although Black patients with cancer undergo surgery at a lower rate than their White counterparts, this doesn’t fully explain their poorer cancer outcomes. This study provides a detailed analysis of these disparities.

Disparities along racial lines are among the most prominent cancer-specific health disparities present in the United States, with those between Black and White patients being the most pronounced. These racial and ethnic disparities are rooted in socio-demographic factors and structural racism.

Black patients with colorectal cancer or breast cancer have an increased risk of being diagnosed at a more advanced stage of illness, and their survival rates are lower when compared to White patients. Past research has also shown that Black patients with cancer who undergo surgery tend to experience poorer outcomes. This study, published in Cancer Medicine, examines disparities between Black and White patients, specifically regarding surgery rates and cancer-specific survival times.

Large-Scale Analysis of Racial Disparities in Cancer Surgery

This study relied on data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results registry database, which covers approximately 28% of the US population. Approximately 1.1 million White and Black cancer patients were extracted from the database across a 9-year timespan from 2007 to 2015. The primary outcome analyzed was surgical intervention, and adjuvant chemotherapy and cancer-specific survival were secondary outcomes. 

Although a disparity between Black and White cancer surgery rates was found, it did narrow during the study period. A racial gap persisted in surgery rates for lung, prostate, breast, esophageal, and ovarian cancers. Black patients were more likely to exhibit worse cancer-specific survival rates than White patients undergoing surgery.

Disparities Persist for Reasons Other Than Overall Surgery Rate

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This study analyzed the 11 deadliest types of cancer, giving a more well-rounded picture of these cancer disparities as a whole, rather than only for one type. The study also shows that a lack of surgery among Black patients cannot entirely explain the disparate outcomes that Black patients face, because these gaps persist even when Black patients do undergo surgery. Although progress is being made in addressing these disparities, delayed treatment time is an especially prominent area in which disparities are common and have a major effect on outcomes.


Zhong, P., Yang, B., Pan, F., & Hu, F. (2022). Temporal trends in Black‐White disparities in cancer surgery and cancer‐specific survival in the United States between 2007 and 2015. Cancer Medicine, 12(3), 3509–3519. https://doi.org/10.1002/cam4.5141