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Surprising Factor in Oral Cancer Deaths
Fatalities from mouth and throat cancer have consistently dropped since the early 1990s, according to a new study — but only among people with at least a high school education. If ever there were a damn good reason to stay in school.
Researchers believe it may be due to higher rates of smoking and other oral cancer risks among less educated, poorer Americans, and because they’re also less likely to have access to timely health care. Similar trends have been shown in rates of death from lung and breast cancers, for example, they added.
“We have a lot more to do in terms of (the fact that) socioeconomic status probably is a really significant factor in mortality from oral and oropharyngeal cancers,” said Dr. Joseph Califano, who studies those cancers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore but wasn’t involved in the new research. “Clearly access to health care to detect cancer in early stages is very important.”
The study, led by Dr. Amy Chen at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, included mouth and throat cancer data from 1993 through 2007 in 26 states. Among adults age 25 to 64, there were about 19,300 deaths during that period. But by the end of the study period, the cancers killed three out of every 100,000 white men, six out of every 100,000 black men, and one each of every 100,000 white and black women annually.
And when Chen and her colleagues broke those findings down by education level, they found the downward trends only held up among black people with at least a high school education, and only among whites who’d completed some college.