Complex Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Childhood Cancer Survival

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rebecca D. Kehm, PhD
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Minneapolis, MN  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Racial and ethnic differences in childhood cancer survival have long been known, and there has been some research indicating that SES could explain disparities. However, our study is the first to use statistical methods that put numbers to the relative contribution of SES to survival disparities for different types of childhood cancer. We set out to investigate whether racial and ethnic disparities in childhood cancer survival are attributed to underlying differences in socioeconomic status, defined as one’s social and economic position in relation to others based on income, education, and occupation, which scientists abbreviate as SES. Our findings provide evidence that SES does in fact contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in survival for some types of childhood cancer. Specifically, we found that SES accounted for 28-73% of the racial and ethnic survival disparity for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, neuroblastoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, SES did not significantly contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in survival for other types of childhood cancer including central nervous system tumors, soft tissue sarcomas, Hodgkin lymphoma, Wilms tumor, and germ cell tumors. These tumor-specific results help inform where to place resources to best reduce racial and ethnic survival disparities for each of the major types of childhood cancer.

Continue reading

Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Leaves Young Adults Vulnerable to Sexual Dysfunction

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Chiara Acquati, Ph.D., MSW Assistant Professor Graduate College of Social Work University of Houston Houston, TX  

Dr. Acquati

Chiara Acquati, Ph.D., MSW
Assistant Professor
Graduate College of Social Work
University of Houston
Houston, TX  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer are individuals between the ages of 15 and 39 years at diagnosis, as defined by the National Cancer Institute. Considerable research has unveiled unique psychosocial challenges experienced by AYAs, including poor quality of life, an altered body image, and social isolation.

As a result of these life disruptions, normative psychological and emotional development is affected by the disease and its treatment, particularly with respect to sexual identity, development, and behavior. However, few studies have examined sexual functioning and AYA patients’ needs with respect to emotional intimacy and sexual relationships. Estimates of the prevalence of sexual dysfunction in AYAs are limited to date and vary because of data derived from mixed-age groups, single items instead of standardized instruments, and cross-sectional designs. Yet, the state of the science suggests that one-third to two-thirds of cancer patients experience sexual dissatisfaction and a reduced frequency of intercourse. Furthermore, failure to address sexual health may place AYAs at risk for long-term consequences related to sexual functioning and identity development, interpersonal relationships, and quality of life. Hence, detecting changes in the rate of sexual dysfunction over time may help in identifying the appropriate timing for interventions to be delivered.

This study was conceptualized to increase our current knowledge of sexual functioning among AYAs by examining the prevalence of sexual dysfunction over the course of 2 years after the initial cancer diagnosis and the identification of variables that contribute to the probability of reporting sexual dysfunction in order to recognize individuals at higher risk. Young adult patients (≥18 years old) were administered the sexual functioning scale as part of a larger longitudinal multisite survey, and only those who completed the instrument at least once were included in this analysis; for this reason the article focuses on the experience of “young adults”.

Continue reading

Genetic Variants May Raise Risk of Breast Cancer In Pediatric Radiation Therapy Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Lindsay M. Morton, PhD Senior investigator in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetic National Cancer Institute Bethesda, Maryland

Dr. Lindsay Morton

Lindsay M. Morton, PhD
Senior investigator in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetic
National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, Maryland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Morton: We know that childhood cancer survivors, particularly those who received radiotherapy to the chest, have strongly increased risk of developing breast cancer. We studied about 3,000 female survivors of childhood cancer to identify whether inherited genetic susceptibility may influence which survivors go on to develop breast cancer.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Dr. Morton: In this discovery study, we found that specific variants in two regions of the genome were associated with increased risk of breast cancer after childhood cancer among survivors who received 10 or more gray of chest radiotherapy. A variant at position q41 on chromosome 1 was associated with nearly two-fold increased risk and one at position q23 on chromosome 11 was associated with a more than three-fold increased risk for each copy of the risk alleles. However, the variant alleles didn’t appear to have an effect among survivors who did not receive chest radiotherapy.

Continue reading