The Scary Reason Latino Men Don’t Get the Best Prostate Cancer Treatment


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All of us have unconscious or involuntary stereotypes that affect our feelings and actions about other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age, and appearance.

This is called “implicit bias.”

Implicit bias can harm relationships, policies, and even health.

In fact, implicit bias is a big reason why Latino men are much less likely to receive optimal treatment for high-risk prostate cancer than White men, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

This is bad news for Latinos.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men of all races, including Latinos.

The Prostate Cancer Disparity

Between 2010-2014, researchers from UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, Stanford Cancer Institute, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai looked at 2,421 Latino and 8,636 non-Latino white men diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer across California.

The study found that Latino men were 21% less likely to receive the best treatment for high-risk localized prostate cancer than non-Latino white men.

The best, optimal treatment was defined as radical prostatectomy, radiation (with or without ADT), or cryoablation.

This has shown the worst outcomes for men suffering from prostate cancer.

“This disparity seems to be largely accounted for by sociodemographic and other non-clinical factors, including neighborhood socioeconomic status, health insurance, marital status, as well as care at an NCI-designated cancer center,” said Dr. Daphne Lichtensztajn of UCSF’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, in a press release.

“However, the influence of patient age, tumor grade, and insurance status, was significantly different between the two populations. This study reinforces the need for training in cultural competency and patient-centered communication, in addition to ensuring the availability of trained interpreters and in-language materials and resources.”

Implicit Bias and Prostate Cancer

The UCSF-led study found lack of health insurance and implicit bias affected Latino men at a significantly higher rate.

Lack of health insurance was linked to under treatment of prostate cancer.

However, there are some disturbing statistics concerning Latino men who lack health insurance.

  • Uninsured non-Latino white men were 37% less likely to receive definitive treatment than those with insurance
  • Uninsured Latinos were 66% less likely to undergo definitive treatment compared to their insured counterparts

Implicit bias and communication barriers also account for disparities, Lichtensztajn said.

“Implicit bias is pervasive in our society, and addressing it at a societal level is a complex task,” Lichtensztajn said in the press release.

“However, acknowledging its existence and increasing awareness is a crucial first step. As individuals become more mindful of their spontaneous reactions to people, they can begin to check these unconscious responses and make conscious efforts to change them.”

What are your implicit biases?

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