Abstract – Objectives: To investigate the impact of race on the likelihood of patients being recommended for surgery after a diagnosis of oral and oropharyngeal cancer.
Methods: A total of 68 445 cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancer were extracted from the 1988 to 2005 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. County‐level rurality data and income data were merged using the US Department of Agriculture Rural‐Urban Continuum Codes dataset and US Census Bureau Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates dataset. We used logistic regression analyses to investigate the impact of race on being recommended to surgery for oral and oropharyngeal cancer, adjusting for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical factors. Stratified analyses were further conducted by tumor site and rural/urban status.
Results: Recommendation to surgery varied significantly by race, with black patients less likely than white patients to be recommended to surgery for their oral and oropharyngeal cancer. The racial difference in recommendation to surgery varied significantly by age, geography, and tumor subsite. Racial disparities are most evident in lip and buccal cancer from rural areas (OR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.6–7.5); and least evident in oropharyngeal cancer from urban areas (OR, 1.2; 95% CI, 1.1–1.3). The magnitude of the racial disparity is attenuated with increasing age.
Conclusions: We observed substantial racial disparities in surgery recommendation for oral and oropharyngeal cancer in the United States. Our results suggest the need to improve accessibility to better health care in racial minority groups, particularly in rural areas, and call for individual and institutional efforts to avoid physician bias related to the patient’s sociodemographic characteristics in healthcare service.