Lung cancer patients with less income and education are more likely to die within 30 days of cancer surgery than those with more education and money, a new study finds.
The type of hospital where the surgery occurs also matters, said researchers who examined results of more than 215,000 lung cancer surgeries performed in the United States between 2003 and 2011.
The findings are published in the April 20 issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
"Clearly, our results show that patients who come from less educated and less wealthy communities are at risk for mortality with the lung cancer operation," said study co-author Dr. Felix Fernandez, an assistant professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
"In order to get uniform superior outcomes for our patients, we need to identify the patients who are at risk for worse outcomes. This is the first step in describing where those disparities exist," he added in a journal news release.
As in previous studies, this one found that the risk of death within 30 days of surgery was higher among patients who were men, older, had other health problems, had late-stage cancer and had larger tumors.
But after accounting for these factors, the researchers also found that lower income and education levels were independently associated with an increased risk of death. However, the study did not show a cause-and-effect link.
Patients who lived in communities with a median annual household income of less than $30,000 were 25 percent more likely to die within 30 days of lung cancer surgery than those who lived in communities with a median annual household income of more than $46,000. Median is the midpoint, not the average.
Patients in communities with lower levels of education were 16 percent more likely to die within 30 days of lung cancer surgery than those in communities with higher levels of education, according to the study.
Compared to those who had surgery at an academic medical center, the risk of death within 30 days was 34 percent higher among patients who had surgery at a community hospital and 22 percent higher among those who had surgery at a comprehensive center.
In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
-- Robert Preidt