Oral cancer screening less common for the disadvantaged, study finds

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Oral cancer screening less common for the disadvantaged, study finds

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Oral cancer screening rates among U.S. adults are lower for those from a minority ethnic group or in a socially disadvantaged situation, according to a new study. (Photograph: Blue Planet Studio/Shutterstock)

Mon. 26. August 2019

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BOSTON, U.S.: It has been well established that early detection of oral cancer is key for successful treatment and an optimal outcome. In a concerning piece of news, a study of oral cancer screening rates among U.S. adults has found that those from minority backgrounds and those with a relatively low income were significantly less likely to receive a screening examination than white, high-income individuals were, even if they had recently visited a dental clinic.

The study was conducted by a team from the Center for Surgery and Public Health at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was led by Avni Gupta, a research scientist and senior project manager at the center. The researchers analyzed data from the 2011–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), selecting those individuals who were at least 30 years of age and who had visited a dentist in the past two years.

Intraoral cancer screenings were reported by 37.6% of respondents, and 31.3% stated that they had undergone an extraoral cancer screening. Overall, those from a minority ethnic group or in a socially disadvantaged situation were less likely to have undergone either type of screening, which as the authors write, is “incompliant with guidelines and concerning because these groups are more likely to present with an advanced stage of oral cancer at diagnosis”.

The authors added that further attempts to understand the reasons behind this selective approach to screening could reduce these discrepancies. “Efforts to both educate patients about requesting oral cancer screening in dental offices and adequately train dental professionals on culturally sensitive communications might be an effective means to increase oral cancer screening exams among minority high-risk populations,” they wrote.

The study, titled “Disparities in oral cancer screening among dental professionals: NHANES 2011–2016,” was published online on Aug. 20, 2019, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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