Understanding disparities in leukemia: a national study

Cancer Causes Control. 2012 Nov;23(11):1831-7. doi: 10.1007/s10552-012-0062-3. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Purpose: Disparities in solid tumors have been well studied. However, disparities in hematologic malignancies have been relatively unexplored on population-based levels. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between race/ethnicity and acute leukemia mortality.

Methods: All patients with acute leukemia [acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)] were identified in the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results database, 1999-2008. Kaplan-Meier curves were generated to reflect survival probabilities by race/ethnicity. Multivariable Cox proportional hazard models estimated hazard of mortality by race with adjustment for individual (age, gender, year of diagnosis) and select genetic factors.

Results: A total of 39,002 patients with acute leukemia were included in the study. Overall, there was a mortality disparity in acute leukemia for blacks (HR 1.17, p < 0.0001) and Hispanics (HR 1.13, p < 0.0001) compared with non-Hispanic whites. In stratified analysis, disparities in ALL were greater than AML; blacks (HR[ALL]1.45, p < 0.0001; HR[AML]1.12, p < 0.0011); Hispanics (HR[ALL]1.46, p < 0.0001; HR[AML]1.06, p < 0.0001). Adjustment for individual patient and select genetic factors did not explain disparities.

Conclusions: Blacks and Hispanics suffer decreased survival in acute leukemia as compared to others. Further investigation is needed to understand the drivers of poor cancer outcomes in these populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / epidemiology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / ethnology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / mortality*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / epidemiology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / ethnology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / mortality*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / pathology
  • SEER Program
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult