Immigrants survive liver cancer better than those born in US

The study is the first to determine the role played by one's nativity in the survival of patients suffering from HCC.

Immigrants battling liver cancer in the United States, have a better chance of survival compared to those born in the country, according to new research by the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of South Carolina. The study is the first to recognize nativity’s role in predicting the survival rate of those suffering from Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common and major form of liver cancer.

National Cancer Institute lists liver cancer as the sixth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. HCC contributes to more than 27,000 fatalities in the U.S. annually. Smoking, heavy alcohol use, liver cirrhosis, and Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus infections are certain risk factors associated with liver cancer.

For the study, researchers used data from the California Cancer Registry, as a quarter of immigrants living in the U.S. are based in the Golden State. This was done to investigate birthplace as a factor impacting survival among patients diagnosed with HCC, which was found to be common among immigrants, yet showed that U.S.-born individuals had a lower chance of survival from the disease.

Dr Kali Zhou, MD, a member of the Cancer Epidemiology Program at USC Norris cancer centre who specializes in the treatment of chronic liver disease at the University’s Keck Medicine authored the study. Zhou along with her colleagues identified 51,533 adults -- from four races and ethnicity groups which include Hispanic, non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander -- with HCC from the California Cancer Registry between 1988 and 2017. Out of this, 20,400 adults were born in foreign countries, meaning 40 per cent of these patients across these races and ethnicity groups were born outside the U.S.

Results revealed that the survival rate of these individuals was higher than those born in the U.S. Among the foreign-born individuals with HCC, Hispanics from Central and South America had a better life expectancy than those compared from Mexico. Lower mortality was observed in Asian/Pacific Highlanders from East Asia compared to Southeast Asia, same with White individuals from East Europe and the Middle East who had better chances at survival compared to those from West/South/North Europe.

“This finding is important as liver cancer rates are rising among U.S.-born and understanding why immigrants have better outcomes may help us create strategies to improve the survival of those born here,” Zhou said, explaining the importance of the study’s findings.

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