Socioeconomic and racial health disparities contribute to worse cancer and COVID-19 outcomes.
Factors that contribute to worse cancer outcomes also contribute to worse coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outcomes, according to a study published in Clinical Cancer Research.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 1.83 million deaths and there have been more than 83.9 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Income level, employment, housing location, medical insurance, education, tobacco and alcohol use, diet and obesity, and access to medical care are all contributing factors to worse COVID-19 outcomes. Additionally, these factors cause worse outcomes in Black patients compared with white individuals, the researchers noted.
Racial disparities in cancer outcomes are well-documented, and in most cancer types, the 5-year survival rate is lower for Black patients than white patients, according to the study. Similar trends have been observed in patients with COVID-19.
Black people represent 13% of the population yet make up 20% of COVID-19 infections. Similar outcomes have been observed in the Latino population, which comprises 32% of COVID-19 infections yet make up only 17% of the population.
According to the study, socioeconomic disadvantages, education, lifestyle factors, comorbidities, and limited accesses to medical care are fueling both cancer and COVID-19 risks, along with the risk of a worse outcome.
"In cancer we are seeing in slow motion what has been observed rapidly with COVID - that the same conditions in our society put specific groups at risk for both. If we can fundamentally change socioeconomic inequality, we theoretically could reduce disparities in both diseases," said John M. Carethers, MD, chair of Internal Medicine at Michigan Medicine, in a press release.
According to the study authors, there are several steps that can be taken to help close this gap, such as ensuring diversity in clinical trial participants and supporting public hospitals to meet the needs of those who are medically underserved. Improved technology can also help close the medical gap by improving access to telehealth services.
Similar factors cause health disparities in cancer, COVID-19 [News Release] December 23, 2020; Ann Arbor, MI. Accessed January 5, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/mm-u-sfc122320.php.