Unraveling the etiology of ovarian cancer racial disparity in the deep south: Is it nature or nurture?

Gynecol Oncol. 2017 May;145(2):329-333. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2017.02.025. Epub 2017 Feb 16.


Background: Our objective was to evaluate racial treatment and survival disparities in black women with ovarian cancer in the Deep South and to determine how environmental factors / socioeconomic status (SES) influence survival.

Methods: A retrospective study of ovarian cancer patients from 2007 to 2014 was performed. Socioeconomic status (SES) was obtained though U.S. Census block data and compared using Yost scores. Comparisons were performed using standard statistical approaches.

Results: A total of 393 patients were evaluated, 325 (83%) white and 68 (17%) black. Demographic information and surgical approach were similar in each racial group. However, compared to whites, black patients had lower rates of optimal debulking [89% vs. 71%, respectively (p=0.001)] and intraperitoneal chemotherapy (19% vs. 11%, p=0.01). Black women had lower SES parameters including education, income, and poverty. As a result, more black patients had the lowest SES (SES-1) when compared to white patients (17% vs. 41%, p<0.001). When controlling for these factors by cox regression analysis, a survival disadvantage was seen in black women for both progression free survival (16 vs. 27months, p=0.003) and overall survival (42 vs. 88months, p<0.001).

Conclusions: Despite controlling for clinical and environmental factors, a survival disadvantage was still observed in black patients with ovarian cancer in the Deep South. Black women had lower optimal debulking rates and more platinum resistant disease. These data suggest other factors like tumor biology may play a role in racial survival differences, however, more research is needed to determine this causation.

Keywords: Ovarian cancer; Racial cancer disparity; Socioeconomic status; Yost index.

MeSH terms

  • Alabama / epidemiology
  • Blacks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / ethnology*
  • Neoplasms, Glandular and Epithelial / mortality
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data