New research identifies factors contributing to disparities in epithelial ovarian cancer survival between Black and White women

March 6, 2023

By Christa Ishimwe  

A new study, recently published in theInternational Journal of Cancer  in honor of World Cancer Day shed light on the disparities in survival rates for Black women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer, compared to White womenJoellen Schildkraut, PhD, was a senior author of this study which was a multi-institution collaboration within the Ovarian Cancer in Women of African Ancestry (OCWAA) consortium. 

Accounting for approximately 90% of ovarian cancers, epithelial ovarian cancer is the most common form of ovarian cancer and develops in the tissue that encircles the ovaries. While previous studies have attributed some of the racial differences in ovarian cancer survival to socioeconomic status and adherence to treatment guidelines, it has been unclear how other factors, such as lifestyle, hormone therapy, and diabetes, play a role in these disparities.  

The authors examined harmonized data from the OCWAA consortium on 1,074 Black women and 3,263 white women with ovarian cancer from seven US studies. They found that 48.8% of this disparity in survival between Black and white women is explained by education, lifestyle factors, diabetes, postmenopausal hormone therapy (PMH), and tumor characteristics.  

The researchers used a novel statistical approach to identify factors that may lead to these disparities. The key factors identified by this study included: 

  • College education 
  • Women who have not given birth  
  • Smoking status 
  • Body mass index 
  • Diabetes 
  • Diabetes/race interaction 
  •  (PMH) therapy duration 
  • PMH duration/race interaction 
  • PMH duration/age interaction 
  • Tissue types that arise during the growth of a tumor 
  • Cancer stage 
The findings highlight the urgent need for further research to uncover additional mediators, incorporate data on social determinants of health, and identify potential avenues of intervention to reduce this disparity. The study's authors emphasize that reducing this disparity is crucial to ensuring that all women with ovarian cancer have access to the best possible care and outcomes, regardless of their race or ethnicity. 

“Our report shows that a portion of the survival disparity among Black women diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer is due to modifiable factors and supports that behavioral interventions may improve survival," says Schildkraut. "Our findings also underscore the need for a more complete understanding of the remaining disparity in order to work towards improving survival outcomes and reducing disparities.” 

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