BACKGROUND: In the general US population, blacks and whites have been shown to undergo colon cancer treatment at disproportionate rates. Accessibility to medical care may be the most important factor influencing differences in colon cancer treatment rates among whites and blacks.
OBJECTIVE: We assessed whether racial disparities in colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy existed in an equal-access health care system. In addition, we sought to examine whether racial differences varied according to demographic and tumor characteristics.
DESIGN AND SETTING: Database research using the Department of Defense Military Health System.
PATIENTS: Patients included 2560 non-Hispanic whites (NHW) and non-Hispanic blacks (NHB) with colon cancer diagnosed from 1998 to 2007.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Logistic regression was used to assess the associations between race and the receipt of colon cancer surgery or chemotherapy while controlling for available potential confounders, both overall and stratified by age at diagnosis, sex, and tumor stage.
RESULTS: After multivariate adjustment, the odds of receiving colon cancer surgery or chemotherapy for NHBs versus NHWs were similar (OR, 0.75 [95% CI, 0.37–1.53]; OR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.59–1.04]). In addition, no effect modifications by age at diagnosis, sex, and tumor stage were observed.
LIMITATIONS: Treatment data might not be complete for beneficiaries who also had non-Department of Defense health insurance.
CONCLUSIONS: When access to medical care is equal, racial disparities in the provision of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy were not apparent. Thus, it is possible that the inequalities in access to care play a major role in the racial disparities seen in colon cancer treatment in the general population.