Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify factors that contribute to the poorer survival of blacks in the United States diagnosed with oral cancer.
Methods: Data for 6,338 whites and 1,165 blacks diagnosed from 1988 to 1993 with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and pharynx were obtained from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program 1973-1993 Public-Use Database. The covariables were sex, age, geographic area, marital status, socioeconomic status (five census-tract measures), stage, anatomic site, grade, lymph node involvement, tumor size, and treatment. Hazard ratios were estimated with Cox regression.
Results: Adjusted for age and geographic area, the hazard of death from oral cancer was 1.7 (95% confidence interval: 1.5-1.9) times greater among blacks than whites. The addition of the socioeconomic status (SES) variables to the model reduced the hazard ratio for race to 1.3 (1.0-1.7). Further adjustment by stage and treatment reduced the hazard ratio for race to 1.1 (0.9-1.4). In a model containing all covariables (except lymph node involvement and tumor size), the hazard ratio for race remained 1.1 (0.9-1.4). Analyses with the outcome death from any cause gave similar results.
Conclusions: Lower SES, more advanced stage, and differences in treatment accounted for 86% of the excess hazard of death from oral cancer among blacks.