Racial segregation linked to lung cancer deaths

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Dr. Gregory Coleman, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, wears a stethoscope as he sees a patient on the same day that the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Dr. Coleman said, ‘the ruling is a good start to begin to control the economics of medicine’. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Dr. Gregory Coleman, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, wears a stethoscope as he sees a patient on the same day that the United States Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Dr. Coleman said, ‘the ruling is a good start to begin to control the economics of medicine’. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How segregated a neighborhood is may determine who dies from lung cancer, according to a new study. The study looked at every county in the United States and classified them into high, medium and low levels of segregation.

Researchers at JAMA Surgery found that African-Americans living in highly segregated counties were 20 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than those in less segregated areas. On the other hand, they found the opposite for whites: those in highly segregated areas were less likely to die of lung cancer.

These findings were independent of whether the person smoked or their socio-economic status. However, it is well-known that blacks have the highest rates of lung cancer and are more likely to die from it.

The study was the first to look at segregation as a factor in lung cancer mortality. Its authors said they could not fully explain why it worsens the odds of survival for African-Americans, but hypothesized that blacks in more segregated areas may be less likely to have health insurance or access to health care and specialty doctors. It is also possible that lower levels of education mean they are less likely to seek care early, when medical treatment could make a big difference. Racial bias in the health care system might also be a factor.

Read more about the findings here.