Cancer risk linked to health insurance or lack thereof

New study says that head and neck cancers are deadlier among patients lacking private health insurance

Not having private health insurance raises the risk of death by head or neck cancers, a study quoted by Reuters Health says.

The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Cancer, examined the medical records of 1,200 adults treated for head and neck cancers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The patients who had private health insurance or regular Medicare had better survival rates than those who did not have health insurance or were covered by Medicaid or Medicare disability.

And the incidence of advanced forms of those cancers was sometimes significantly higher among the uninsured, Reuters Health says. The study found that Medicaid and uninsured patients were seven times more likely to be in an advanced stage of laryngeal cancer than privately insured patients.

Researchers attributed the higher death risk to the lack of preventive care that uninsured and Medicaid patients - often low-income people - received. The study's authors suggested that those people may have a harder time taking time off work for visits to doctors' offices and may be less likely to have routine checkups.

Nevertheless, the standard of care was found to be the same whether or not a patient had private health insurance, Reuters Health said.

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Posted: December 11, 2009

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