February 27, 2014
By Hope Gillette
The American Cancer Society released the results of a new study this week indicating uninsured adolescents and young adults–particularly those who were male and Hispanic or African American–were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage cancer compared to those in the same age group who had health coverage.
The finding is not surprising given the fact that cost and access to health care are two of the most common hurdles cited by Hispanics when it comes to seeking medical attention.
Overall, adolescents and young adults in general were more likely to have advanced stages of cancer if they were uninsured, and according to the study authors, individuals in these age groups have benefited the least in recent years when it comes to cancer therapy advancements.
Of the data obtained from nearly 260,000 cancer patients ages 15 to 39 in the National Cancer Database, experts found that adolescents and young adult patients without insurance were more likely to be male, Black or Hispanic, reside in the South and treated in teaching/research facilities. These same patients were also less likely to be treated in NCI-designated facilities.
While young adults and adolescents without insurance were more likely to be male, the effect of a lack of insurance was seen more often among females.
According to the report,uninsured males were 1.51 times more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer when compared to those with insurance, but uninsured females were 1.86 times more likely to be diagnosed in an advanced disease stage when compared to other females with insurance.
While the results are as can be expected–individuals without insurance are less likely to visit the doctor and therefore less likely to be diagnosed in a timely manner–experts feel the data can be used to eventually prove the benefits of programs like the Affordable Care Act.
“The findings suggest that policies such as the Affordable Care Act that increase the number of people in America with health coverage will result in fewer late-stage cancer diagnoses and save lives,” wrote study authors.
“We believe that this observation holds the promise of improved cancer control efforts in the AYA population, after decades in which AYA patients have experienced far less victory in the War on Cancer than their younger and older counterparts,” the authors concluded.
“However, the success of these efforts may be directly tied to the fate of the Medicaid expansion component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which, at the time of this writing, remains quite unclear.”