Neighborhood Factors Contribute to Liver Cancer Disparities in Texas

Megan Brooks

August 10, 2022

Factors operating at the community level may help explain disparities in rates of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) across Texas.

Researchers found that the risk for HCC is higher in neighborhoods characterized by minority populations, socioeconomic disadvantage, and blue-collar workers from specific industries.

However, these relationships are not uniform across the state, report researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"HCC is a serious health concern in Texas and our foundational work is a step forward to better prevent this deadly disease," study investigator Hashem El-Serag, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

The study was published online in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

HCC is the most common type of liver cancer in the United States, and Texas has the highest rate of HCC. Yet, within Texas, incidence rates vary by race, ethnicity, and geographic location.

The Baylor team examined these disparities at the neighborhood level, with a focus on measures of social determinants of health and the industries where most neighborhood residents work.

They identified 11,547 Texas residents diagnosed with HCC between 2011 and 2015, at a mean age of 63 years. Roughly three quarters were men, and 44% were non-Hispanic White, 14% non-Hispanic Black, 37% Hispanic, and 5% other.

The researchers used demographics, socioeconomic status, and employment provided by the US Census Bureau to characterize the neighborhoods where these people lived when they were diagnosed with HCC.

Among their key findings, the risk for HCC among African American and Hispanic residents was highest in West Texas, South Texas, and the panhandle. However, some factors, like age and socioeconomic status, were not affected by location.

Across the entire state, however, people older than 60 years and those of low socioeconomic status had a higher relative risk for HCC.

Two areas of employment — construction and service occupations — also stood out as being associated with a higher risk for HCC, whereas employment in agriculture was associated with lower risk.

The authors caution that the ecological nature of the study precludes any firm conclusions regarding a causal link between working in these industries and HCC.

"Further research, including longitudinal studies, are needed to clarify the roles of specific occupations in HCC risk," corresponding author Abiodun Oluyomi, PhD, said in the news release.

"Our findings validate factors previously associated with HCC, and our geographic analysis shows areas of Texas where specific intervention strategies may be most relevant," Oluyomi added.

This research was supported by the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. The authors have no relevant disclosures.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. Published online August 3, 2022. Abstract

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