Objectives: We tested the relationship between urban or rural residence as defined by rural-urban commuting area codes and risk of mortality in a sample of Medicare beneficiaries with lung cancer.
Methods: We used Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data linked with Medicare claims to build proportional hazards models. The models tested hypothesized relationships between individual and community characteristics and overall survival for a cohort of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older who were diagnosed with lung cancer between 1995 and 1999 (N=26073).
Results: We found no evidence that lung cancer patients in rural areas have poorer survival than those in urban areas. Rather, individual (Medicaid coverage) and regional (lower census tract-level median income) socioeconomic factors and a smaller supply of subspecialists per 10000 individuals 65 years and older were positively associated with a higher risk of mortality.
Conclusions: Although urban versus rural residence did not directly influence survival, rural residents were more likely to live in poorer areas with a smaller supply of health care providers. Therefore, we still need to be aware of rural beneficiaries' potential disadvantage when it comes to receiving needed care in a timely fashion.