Background: This study was designed to determine if race and age are independent prognostic factors for survival in patients treated for squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and pharynx.
Methods: Retrospective study.
Results: Out of 909 patients registered, 815 (90%) were white and 94 (10%) were African-American. The median age was 60 years (range 19-93). The African-American patients had a significantly lower 5 year survival rate of 27.6% (95% CI 19.9-38.3) compared with white patients with a survival rate of 52.0% (95% CI 48.7-55.6) (P < 0.001). The greatest racial disparities in survival were observed in patients under 60 years of age [29.2% (95% CI 19.5-43.6) vs 60.9% (95% CI 56.3-66.0) for African-American and white patients, respectively, P < 0.001], and in African-American men compared with white men [20.2% (95% CI 12.6-30.2) vs 51.0% (95% CI 46.7-53.0), P < 0.001]. A multivariate Cox model, stratified according to stage of disease, indicated that race, age, and type of treatment were statistically significant predictors of survival. After adjusting for race and treatment received, African-American patients had a relative risk of dying of 1.61 (95% CI 1.23-2.10) compared with white patients. All patients 60 years of age and older had a higher risk of dying 1.59 (95% CI 1.31-1.92). Compared with surgical treatment alone, radiotherapy and other treatments were both associated with increased risk of dying with respective relative risks of 1.34 (95% CI 1.01-1.76) and 1.94 (95% CI 1.52-1.48).
Conclusions: African-American patients had poorer survival outcomes, with race and age emerging as significant independent predictors of survival after treatment for oral and pharyngeal cancer, compared with their white counterparts. Primary and secondary prevention programs that target younger patients at high risk might reduce environmental risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, which may play a greater role in the acquired susceptibility for oral and pharyngeal cancer in African-American males.