Head and neck cancer survival disparities by race and rural–urban context

Jacob A. Clarke, Alyssa M. Despotis, Ricardo J. Ramirez, Jose P. Zevallos, Angela L. Mazul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: This study aims to examine the relationship between race and rural–urban context in head and neck cancer (HNC) survival and determine factors that potentially drive this disparity. Methods: Using the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2015, we identified a retrospective cohort of 146,256 patients with HNC. Kaplan–Meier survival curves and the Cox proportional hazards regression were used to calculate adjusted HRs. Results: Median survival by patient subgroup was as follows: White urban [67 months; 95% confidence interval (CI), 66.0–67.9], White rural (59.1 months; 95% CI, 57.2–60), Black urban (43.1 months; 95% CI, 41.1–44.5), and Black rural (35.1 months; 95% CI, 31.9–39.0). The difference in 5-year survival, stratified by rural–urban context, was greater among Black patients [D restricted mean survival time (DRMST) 0.18; 95% CI, 0.10–0.27] than White patients (DRMST 0.08; 95% CI, 0.06–0.11). In the univariate Cox proportional hazards analysis with White urban patients as reference group, Black rural patients had the worst survival (HR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.43–1.48; P < 0.001), followed by Black urban patients (HR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.28–1.30; P < 0.001), and White rural patients (HR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.07–1.09; P < 0.001). This disparity persisted when controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and clinical factors. Conclusions: Black patients with HNC, specifically those living in rural areas, have decreased survival. Survival differences by rural–urban status are greater among Black patients than White patients. Impact: We have shown that race and rural–urban status impact HNC survival outcomes. Our findings will help future researchers to better frame approaches to address this disparity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1955-1961
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


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