Context: Disparities in cancer care for rural residents and for African Americans have been documented, but the interaction of these factors is not well understood.
Purpose: The authors examined the simultaneous influence of race and place of residence on access to and utilization of specialized cancer care in the United States.
Methods: Access to specialized cancer care was measured using: (1) travel time to National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Centers, academic medical centers, and any oncologist for the entire continental US population, and (2) per capita availability of oncologists for the entire United States. Utilization was measured as attendance at NCI Cancer Centers, specialized hospitals, and other hospitals in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program Medicare population from 1998-2004.
Findings: In urban settings, travel times were shorter for African Americans compared with Caucasians for all three cancer care settings, but they were longer for rural African Americans traveling to NCI Cancer Centers. Per capita oncologist availability was not significantly different by race or place of residence. Urban African American patients were almost 70% more likely to attend an NCI Cancer Center than urban Caucasian patients (OR = 1.66; 95% CI 1.51-1.83), whereas rural African American patients were 58% less likely to attend an NCI Cancer Center than rural Caucasian patients (OR = 0.42; 95% CI 0.26-0.66).
Conclusions: Urban African Americans have similar or better access to specialized cancer care than urban Caucasians, but rural African Americans have relatively poor access and lower utilization compared with all other groups.