Study reveals link between major discrimination and frailty
Cancer and its treatment can accelerate the rate of aging because they both destabilize and damage biological systems in the body. New research published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, found that African American cancer survivors who reported high levels of discrimination exhibited greater aging and frailty than those reporting lower levels of discrimination.
For the study, Jeanne Mandelblatt, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Cancer and Aging Research at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., and her colleagues examined survey responses from 2,232 adults participating in the Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors (ROCS) Study, a population-based cohort of African American adult cancer survivors who had been diagnosed with breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer within five years. The investigators used what is called a deficit accumulation index to measure aging-related disease and function, and they examined survey responses to questions including ones related to perceived discrimination. Types of discrimination that were assessed included those related to employment, education, renting and buying property, and treatment by police or neighbors.
“Discrimination can act as a chronic stressor, which can throw the body off balance, resulting in increases in blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, inflammation, and numerous other factors. These stressors can also increase rates of aging, leading to greater risk of frailty,” said Dr. Mandelblatt, who is also a professor of oncology and medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine. “We hypothesize that discrimination can lead to an older biological age than a person’s actual chronological age. This is important to understand as there have been virtually no studies of the relationships between discrimination and aging in the setting of cancer survivorship.”
The team found that only 24.4% of participants had deficit accumulation scores indicating no signs of aging-related frailty. Also, survey responses indicated that two-thirds of participants experienced major discrimination in their lives. Survivors with four to seven types of discrimination events had the largest increase in deficits, even after controlling for age; time from diagnosis; cancer type, stage, and therapy; and sociodemographic variables.
“Our results indicate that after considering the effects of traditional factors on poor health—such as income, education, and types of cancer treatment—discrimination was significantly linked to frailty independent of the other variables,” said Ann Schwartz, PhD, co-lead author on the paper and the leader of the Detroit ROCS Study. “Regardless of whether you were rich or poor, if you experienced more discrimination, then you reported greater levels of frailty.” Schwartz is also professor and associate chair of oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine and deputy center director at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
NOTE: The information contained in this release is protected by copyright. Please include journal attribution in all coverage. A free abstract of this article will be available via the CANCER Newsroom upon online publication. For more information or to obtain a PDF of any study, please contact: Sara Henning-Stout, email@example.com.
“Association between major discrimination and deficit accumulation in African American cancer survivors: The Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors Study.” Jeanne Mandelblatt, Julie J. Ruterbusch, Hayley S. Thompson, Xingtao Zhou, Traci N. Bethea, Lucile Adams-Campbell, Kristen Purrington, and Ann G. Schwartz. CANCER; Published Online: March 20, 2023 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.34673).
URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.34673
Author Contact: Karen Teber, Associate Vice President of Strategic Communications at Georgetown University Medical Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Journal
CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online. Follow us on Twitter @JournalCancer.
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Association between major discrimination and deficit accumulation in African American cancer survivors: The Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors Study
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