Older black men with localized prostate cancer were more likely to have poorer quality care, incur higher costs, and have worse postoperative outcomes than white men. However, that did not translate to worse overall or cancer-specific survival, according to an article published in JAMA Oncology (2015; doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.3384).

Prostate cancer is a frequently diagnosed cancer among men in the United States, with an estimated 233 000 new cases in 2014. The treatment of prostate cancer is driven, in part, by the severity of disease at presentation. Definitive therapy for localized prostate cancer with the intention of cure is radical prostatectomy (RP), radiotherapy, or a combination thereof.

Quoc-Dien Trinh, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and coauthors looked at the effect of race on quality of care and survival of men undergoing RP for localized prostate cancer. They used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare database for 26 482 men 65 years or older with localized prostate cancer who underwent radical prostatectomy: 2020 black men (7.6%) and 24 462 non-Hispanic white men (92.4%).

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Although the authors found no difference in cancer-specific or overall death between black and white men with localized prostate cancer, several other findings were noted. A total of 59.4% of black men underwent RP within 90 days vs. 69.5% of white men. Black men had a 7-day treatment delay compared with white men in the top 50% of patients.

Black men were less likely to undergo lymph node dissection. They were also more likely to have postoperative visits to the emergency department (ED) or be readmitted to the hospital compared with white men. The top 50% of black patients had higher incremental annual costs for surgery, spending $1185 more compared with white patients.

Limitations to the study include that it was comprised only of Medicare enrollees age 65 years or older, and the authors acknowledge that most men treated with RP are younger and have private health insurance, so the findings may not be generalizable to the general population of men undergoing RP.

“We provide robust evidence for the existence of a substantial difference in the quality of surgical care of PCa [localized prostate cancer] in blacks. Because the unfavorable quality of care did not translate into worse overall and cancer-specific survival in our sample, the commonly perceived detrimental survival in black patients with PCa may be the sequelae of barriers and selection bias in definitive treatment. Public and professional awareness needs to be raised to address these concerning issues and identify their underlying causes,” the authors concluded.

In a related commentary (doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.3615), Otis W. Brawley, MD, MACP, of the American Cancer Society and Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, wrote: “The black patients in this study have insurance and access to care and were deemed healthy enough for surgery, but there was still a disparity in quality of that care. … This study documents clear evidence that quality of care differs by race. … Race is an important sociopolitical categorization as quality of care differs. The reason is debatable.”