Low Household Income & Poor Education Decrease Multiple Myeloma Survival Rate, Study Says

Senior African American couple going over billsThe chance of surviving multiple myeloma may boil down to sociodemographic factors such as household income and education, according to a new U.S. study.

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Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied more than 10,000 multiple myeloma patients younger than 65. They found that race wasn’t the most important factor in whether a patient was at risk for dying prematurely.

Instead, what actually affected the patient’s survival rate were marital status, income and insurance.

“This finding strongly suggests that there is a huge disparity in outcomes that could potentially be overcome by improving access and affordability of treatments,” said Dr. Luciano Costa.

Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow’s plasma cells. As the disease progresses, it can cause damage to the bones, immune system, kidneys and red blood cell count.

Treatment for the disease can vary from medications and chemotherapy to radiation and stem-cell transplant, depending on how advance the cancer is.

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African Americans are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma than whites. It’s unclear why that is, according to the American Cancer Society. The risk of getting the disease increases with age.

According to the study, overall survival for a person without any of the aforementioned sociodemographic factors was 71.1 percent. However, for a person with 3 adverse factors, the survival rate dropped down to 46.5 percent.

An example of these factors is an unmarried multiple myeloma patient who lives in a low-income country and receives Medicaid. This patient had a 25 percent lower chance of surviving four years after diagnosis compared to a patient of the same age who is married, living in a better income country with private insurance.

“With the recent emphasis on comparative effectiveness in oncology, it also becomes crucial that all variables affecting outcomes – including sociodemographic factors – are accounted for when comparisons between different therapeutic approaches and health care systems are made,” Costa said.