Study Links Poverty to Shorter Survival for Mesothelioma Patients

Study Links Poverty to Shorter Survival for Mesothelioma Patients

Poor people with mesothelioma live shorter lives and are less likely to get chemotherapy than those with higher incomes, though geographical distance to oncological specialty care has no effect on survival, a recent Australian study reported.

But since the paper only included data on patients who were compensated for earlier occupational asbestos exposure, researchers stressed that characteristics among those ineligible for compensation may differ from those found in the study.

The report, “Geographic and socioeconomic factors in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma in New South Wales and their impact upon clinical outcomes,” appeared in the journal Respirology.

To better understand if geographical and socioeconomic factors affected the lives of mesothelioma patients, researchers at Australia’s Asbestos Diseases Research Institute examined 910 mesothelioma patients in the state of New South Wales.

Analyses showed that 67 percent lived in a major city, and fewer than 1 percent lived in remote areas. In addition, 65 percent lived within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), and 92 percent within 50 kilometers (31.1 miles) of an oncology clinic.

The patients survived for a median of 10 months. As has been reported in earlier studies, males, older patients, and those with non-epithelioid cancer types had shorter survival times. Patients living in major cities lived for a median of 10.6 months, while those in remote areas lived for 8.8 months — not a statistically significant difference.

The 2.5-month difference in survival between those living closer than 50 km to an oncology clinic and patients in rural areas was also not significant. The only difference identified based on geographical area was that patients in remote areas were less likely to receive palliative radiotherapy.

In contrast, poverty led to poor survival. Those in the lowest socioeconomic groups lived for only 8.4 months, compared to 13 months among those in the highest groups. Poorer patients were also more likely to be ex-smokers.

While 40 percent of all patients received chemotherapy, patients of lower socioeconomic status were less likely to get such treatment (37.4 percent, compared to 54.8 percent for those of the highest socioeconomic status).

The research team underscored that low socioeconomic status is linked to the presence of other diseases as well as other factors that may reduce survival rates, and that such factors should be explored in future studies.

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Magdalena is a writer with a passion for bridging the gap between the people performing research, and those who want or need to understand it. She writes about medical science and drug discovery. She holds an MS in Pharmaceutical Bioscience and a PhD — spanning the fields of psychiatry, immunology, and neuropharmacology — from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

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