Insurance status tied to racial disparities in breast cancer diagnosis

Lack of insurance may be associated with delayed breast cancer diagnosis and treatment among racial and ethnic minority women, as well as higher mortality rates, according to a study published Jan. 9 in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers analyzed Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program data from 177,075 women aged 40 to 64 years. All women had been diagnosed with stage 1 to 3 breast cancer between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2016, and 148,124 were insured, while 28,951 were uninsured or receiving Medicaid. 

Twenty percent of uninsured women or Medicaid recipients were diagnosed with a locally advanced breast cancer (stage 3), compared to 11 percent of women with health insurance. Non-Hispanic black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Hispanic women were all more likely to receive an advanced breast cancer diagnosis than  white women. 

The findings suggest that nearly half of racial and ethnic disparities in higher-stage breast cancer diagnoses are mediated by insurance coverage. Insured care may be tied to earlier diagnosis, expedited treatment and improved prognosis, researchers say.

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