Marquita W. Lewis-Thames

Rural Cancer Survival Trails Urban Patients, Especially for Minorities Interview with:

Marquita W. Lewis-Thames

Dr. Lewis-Thames

Marquita W. Lewis-Thames, PhD (she/her/Dr.)
Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Social Science
Center for Community Health, Member Researcher
Assistant Directors of Community Outreach and Engagement, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center
Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings? 

Response: Incidence, mortality, and survivorship provide a comprehensive description of cancer for a group of people. Differences in cancer incidence and mortality trends by rural-urban status and race and ethnicity are well documented, but urban-rural cancer survivorship trends by race and ethnicity are unknown. To this end, we examined almost 40 years of racial and ethnic differences by rural-urban status for 5-year survival of patients with lung, prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers.

Using a nationwide epidemiological assessment of 1975-2011 data from the SEER database, we found that 5-year cancer-specific survival trends increased for all cancer types and race and ethnic groups, regardless of rural or urban status.

Generally, rural, and non-Hispanic Black cancer patients had worse survival outcomes than others. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study provides a comprehensive analysis to show that rural patients’ survival has trailed urban patients’ survival for almost 40 years, regardless of sociodemographic and clinical variables. This study illuminates that for almost 40 years (and likely more than that) cancer survivorship inequities for rural and non-Hispanic Black cancer patients persistent, and they are chronically among the most cancer burdened in the United States. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: As it relates to the future of cancer research, our findings are partly explained by systematic and structural inequities that have created barriers for many cancer patients from rural and minoritized groups to access cancer screenings and advanced treatments. This study provides poignant evidence that targeted cancer education and programming, as well as additional funding and services, are long overdue for rural and minoritized groups. Therefore, patients need services and interventions at the time of screening and treatment before they are identified as cancer survivors.


Lewis-Thames MW, Langston ME, Khan S, et al. Racial and Ethnic Differences in Rural-Urban Trends in 5-Year Survival of Patients With Lung, Prostate, Breast, and Colorectal Cancers: 1975-2011 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER). JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(5):e2212246. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.12246

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Last Updated on June 10, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD