December 28, 2005
Cancer, poverty and race
African-American women have twice the mortality rate from cervical cancer as white women. Here’s one reason why:
Black women who live in poor neighborhoods are less likely to be screened for cervical cancer than women living in more affluent areas, researchers find.
The reason for the lower rate of screening isn’t clear, and the researchers note that other factors linked to lower screening rates, such as older age or lower education, didn’t seem to play a role.
“Even among women who were professionals or who were educated, they, too, had decreased screening if they lived in neighborhoods with high poverty,” said study author Geetanjali Dabral Datta, a postgraduate fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In their study, Datta and her colleagues focused on the connection between socioeconomic factors and how they affected cervical cancer screening, most notably the Pap smear. They collected data on more than 40,000 black women from across the United States.
… Women living in communities where at least 20 percent of families lived below the poverty level were significantly less likely to be get regular Pap tests, compared with women living in areas where only 5 percent of the population lived below the poverty line.
… To ensure that women in these communities get Pap tests, there has to be a concentrated effort to reach them, Datta said. “There needs to be a focus on high poverty neighborhoods,” she said. “We need to think of people’s socioeconomic context when it comes to health behaviors.”
The report appears in the February 1st issue of Cancer.
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