Noah Hammarlund, PhD, MS, publishes article highlighting racial inequities for prostate cancer treatment

By Sara A. Mayo

Assistant Professor, Dr. Noah Hammarlund

A recent study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention investigated why some prostate cancer patients in the United States are less likely to receive potentially life-saving treatments.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 40,000 Medicare recipients with substantial non-metastatic prostate cancer between 2010 and 2015, seeking to determine which factors – the patients’ health or healthcare delivery – contributed more to treatment discrepancies between black and white patients.

Despite facing higher risks of death from prostate cancer than white individuals, the study showed that black individuals in the United States with prostate cancer were 8% less likely to receive significant life-saving treatment, such as surgery or radiation. Only 15% of the difference in treatment was due to variations in patient health, such as tumor characteristics or other comorbidities. This suggests that the other 85% was related to issues with how healthcare was provided to the patient, implying that racial disparities might have played a significant role.

Noah Hammarlund, PhD, MS, an assistant professor in the UF Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy, led the study in collaboration with other researchers from the University of Washington.

Though the study focused on health disparities specifically related to prostate cancer, the findings emphasize the broader implications of understanding and addressing healthcare disparities in other medical conditions.

 “There’s a traditional explanation that black individuals receive less definitive interventions because health differences make them less appropriate for care,” explains Dr. Hammarlund. “This study shows that, at least in the case of prostate cancer, that explanation isn’t true.”

Studies such as these, Hammarlund states, help focus on the importance of addressing systemic factors within healthcare– such as health systems and social determinants of health, with the hope that interventions can be developed to ensure equal access to treatments for all patients.

For more on the study, see full publication here.