alec stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

Uninsured women or women on Medicaid are at a greater risk to develop advanced stage III breast cancer compared to women with health insurance, according to the results of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study reported in JAMA Oncology. Naomi Ko, MD, and Gregory Calip, PhD, noted that up to 47% of racial and ethnic disparities in advanced stage breast cancer could be mitigated by health insurance coverage.

“Researchers focused their attention on 177,075 women of various races and ethnicities, ages 40–64. All had been diagnosed with invasive stage I to III breast cancer between 2010 and 2016,” NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, said in his blog.  “The researchers found that a higher proportion of women receiving Medicaid or who were uninsured received a diagnosis of advanced stage III breast cancer compared with women with health insurance. Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hispanic women also had higher odds of receiving a late-stage diagnosis.”

The researchers used data from the National Cancer Institute-run Surveillance Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. The program is the leading source of information for cancer incidence and survival throughout the United States and offers a snapshot into how cancer affects different communities.

According to Collins’ recap of the report, “Earlier studies had shown a link between insurance and cancer outcomes. It also stood to reason that broad differences among racial and ethnic minorities in their access to adequate insurance might drive some of the observed cancer disparities. But, Ko and Calip asked, just how big a factor was it?”