For people diagnosed with a type of cancer called acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), social and economic factors can affect the odds of survival, a new study shows.
“As physicians, we often emphasize more of the biology of the cancer, especially with the recent focus on personalized medicine. But we need to pay the same attention to resources available to our patients, as this greatly impacts their chances to survive leukemia,” study senior author Dr. Luciano Jose Costa, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), said in a journal news release.
In conducting the study, researchers used a database of more than 5,500 people under the age of 65. They found that in addition to the patients’ age and the progression of their disease, socioeconomic factors not directly related to their medical care played a role in the outcome of their treatment.
Specifically, certain people were at much greater risk of dying early, including those who were single or divorced. People who were uninsured, on Medicaid or living in lower income areas were also more likely to die prematurely, the study found.
Results were published online Sept. 14 in the journal Cancer.
“We believe these three factors indicate lack of material and social support preventing young patients from successfully walking the long and difficult road towards a cure,” study lead author Dr. Uma Borate, an assistant professor at UAB, said in the news release.
“Factors that have nothing to do with quality of care need to be accounted for when comparing predicted with actual outcomes — otherwise we will create a disincentive for hospitals and doctors to care for less privileged patients,” Borate said.
Nearly 21,000 Americans will be diagnosed with AML in 2015, according to the study authors. About half of these patients will die from their disease, the researchers added.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on leukemia.