Undertreatment of High-Risk Localized Prostate Cancer in the California Latino Population

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  • a Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, Cancer Prevention Institute of California, Fremont, California; Stanford Cancer Institute, Stanford, California; Division of Urology, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California; Department of Urology, and Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California; Departments of Population Health Science and Policy, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York; and Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Background: The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology recommend definitive therapy for all men with high-risk localized prostate cancer (PCa) who have a life expectancy >5 years or who are symptomatic. However, the application of these guidelines may vary among ethnic groups. We compared receipt of guideline-concordant treatment between Latino and non-Latino white men in California. Methods: California Cancer Registry data were used to identify 2,421 Latino and 8,636 non-Latino white men diagnosed with high-risk localized PCa from 2010 through 2014. The association of clinical and sociodemographic factors with definitive treatment was examined using logistic regression, overall and by ethnicity. Results: Latinos were less likely than non-Latino whites to receive definitive treatment before (odds ratio [OR], 0.79; 95% CI, 0.71–0.88) and after adjusting for age and tumor characteristics (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.75–0.95). Additional adjustment for sociodemographic factors eliminated the disparity. However, the association with treatment differed by ethnicity for several factors. Latino men with no health insurance were considerably less likely to receive definitive treatment relative to insured Latino men (OR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.23–0.49), an association that was more pronounced than among non-Latino whites (OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.47–0.83). Intermediate-versus high-grade disease was associated with lower odds of definitive treatment in Latinos (OR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.59–0.97) but not non-Latino whites. Younger age and care at NCI-designated Cancer Centers were significantly associated with receipt of definitive treatment in non-Latino whites but not in Latinos. Conclusions: California Latino men diagnosed with localized high-risk PCa are at increased risk for undertreatment. The observed treatment disparity is largely explained by sociodemographic factors, suggesting it may be ameliorated through targeted outreach, such as that aimed at younger and underinsured Latino men.

Background

Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most commonly diagnosed noncutaneous malignancy in men in the United States.1 Although most cases of PCa in the United States are diagnosed at the localized stage,1 their clinical course varies widely from indolent to fatal. To facilitate prognostication and disease management, localized PCa can be further classified into low, intermediate, and high risk of progression based on Gleason score, stage, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level at diagnosis.

Many men harbor low-risk disease that will remain clinically insignificant throughout their lifetime. Recognizing that overtreatment of these men would expose them to potentially serious morbidity without deriving any benefit from immediate treatment, major guidelines recommend active surveillance for initial management of this group.2,3 However, in contrast to those with low-risk disease, men with high-risk tumors have a significant risk of symptomatic progression and death from PCa.4,5 In this context, definitive therapy has been shown to decrease disease-specific mortality,6 and the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) recommend either radiation therapy (RT) with 2 to 3 years of androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), RT with brachytherapy with or without 2 to 3 years of ADT, or radical prostatectomy with pelvic lymph node dissection as initial treatment of all high-risk localized PCa, barring contraindications.2 Despite these recommendations, undertreatment of high-risk disease has been noted in specific groups of patients, including the otherwise healthy elderly,7 the uninsured and underinsured,8,9 and nonwhite minorities.810

Latinos comprise the nation's largest minority group,11 yet there is a paucity of information regarding PCa treatment in this population. Of concern are reports of an emerging treatment disparity in Latinos with high-risk disease.10 California is home to almost 15 million Latinos, representing 39% of the state's population and its largest ethnic group.12 We leveraged the large size of the Latino population and the wealth of data in the California Cancer Registry (CCR) to examine real-world treatment patterns and factors affecting the receipt of definitive treatment for high-risk PCa among understudied Latino men.

Methods

Tumor, demographic, and treatment data on all California Latino and non-Latino white men diagnosed with clinically localized (N0,M0) adenocarcinoma of the prostate from 2010 through 2014 were obtained through the CCR. The CCR, comprising 4 registries within the SEER program, uses an established algorithm based on medical record ethnicity, surname, and birthplace13 to ascertain Latino ethnicity. The year 2010 was the earliest year that information was available to delineate Gleason scores at biopsy versus prostatectomy, allowing for uniform use of pretreatment data for risk stratification; 2014 marked the last year for which complete data were available.

PCa cases diagnosed on death certificate or autopsy only (n=25) and those with unknown stage, Gleason score, or PSA level were excluded (n=7,856). The analysis was limited to men with high-risk disease, defined as having at least one of the following characteristics: Gleason score of 8 to 10, clinical stage ≥T3, or PSA level >20 ng/mL.2 Definitive treatment was defined as radical prostatectomy, RT (± ADT), or cryoablation. Nondefinitive therapy included other surgical procedures (eg, transurethral resection of the prostate), ADT alone, and no treatment. Twelve cases with missing surgery or RT data for whom it was not possible to determine receipt of definitive treatment were also excluded from the analysis, resulting in a final cohort of 8,636 non-Latino and 2,421 Latino cases.

A previously described composite measure14 was used to assign all cases to a tertile of neighborhood socioeconomic status (nSES) based on the 2010 Census block group of their geocoded residence at time of diagnosis.

The association of ethnicity with receipt of definitive therapy was modeled using univariable and multivariable logistic regression. The multivariable model included tumor factors (clinical T stage, biopsy Gleason score, and PSA level) as well as SES (age, insurance status, marital status, nSES, and care at an NCI-designated Cancer Center).

To test for heterogeneity in associations by ethnicity, first order interaction terms were examined; significant interactions between ethnicity and several covariates were found. Therefore, the association of treatment with tumor and sociodemographic characteristics was also modeled separately for Latinos and non-Latino whites.

The proportion of patients with unknown PSA level, Gleason score, and stage differed by ethnicity. To address potential bias that could have resulted from the exclusion of those with unknown prognostic factors, a propensity score was created for likelihood of having complete data for all 3 factors. Analyses were then repeated using inverse probability weighting.15 Statistical analyses were performed using SAS version 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc.). Tests were 2-sided, with P<.05 considered statistically significant.

Results

Characteristics of the study population are shown in Table 1. A lower proportion of Latinos received definitive treatment for high-risk localized PCa than non-Latino whites (74.1% vs 78.3%). Although the

Table 1.

Patient Characteristics and First Course of Treatment

Table 1.
proportion of men receiving RT was similar between groups (42.1% Latinos, 41.1% non-Latino whites), Latinos were less likely than non-Latino whites to be treated with radical prostatectomy (31.4% vs 36.2%). Latinos were more likely to receive non-definitive treatment with ADT alone (13.4% vs 11.4%) or no treatment (10.6% vs 8.2%).

Compared with non-Latino whites, Latinos had a slightly lower proportion of clinical T3–4 tumors (11.3% vs 12.8%), lower proportion of high-grade tumors (69.8% vs 76.1%), and higher proportion of PSA values >20 ng/mL (44.4% vs 33.3%). A higher proportion of Latinos presented with >1 unfavorable disease characteristic (22.6% vs 19.8%). Latinos tended to be younger than non-Latino whites at diagnosis, with a higher proportion of cases aged <65 years (34.0% vs 29.2%). The proportion of insured men was similar between groups (94.1% Latinos vs 96.5% non-Latino whites), but the type of insurance coverage differed; compared with non-Latino Whites, a higher proportion of Latinos were covered by Medicaid or public insurance (18.7% vs 4.1%) and a lower proportion had Medicare coverage (30.8% vs 43.7%). A lower proportion of Latinos (13.9%) received care at an NCI-designated Cancer Center compared with non-Latino whites (21.1%). The distribution of nSES was strikingly different between ethnicities; almost half (45.1%) of Latinos resided in low SES neighborhoods, whereas a similarly high proportion (49.2%) of non-Latino whites lived in high SES neighborhoods.

In the unadjusted model, Latinos were 21% less likely to receive definitive treatment (odds ratio [OR] 0.79; 95% CI, 0.71–0.88) than non-Latino whites (Table 2). This association persisted after adjusting for relevant patient and tumor characteristics (model C; age, clinical stage, Gleason score, and PSA level [OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.75–0.95]). After adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics in addition to age and tumor characteristics, there was no longer a significant difference in the odds of receiving definitive treatment between Latinos and non-Latino whites (OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.84–1.08).

Significant heterogeneity in effects was found with ethnicity and age (Pinteraction=.005), insurance status (Pinteraction=.008), and cancer center status (Pinteraction=.039), prompting us to model the receipt of treatment separately for each ethnic group (Figure 1). The association of age with receipt of treatment

Table 2.

ORs and 95% CI for Latinos Receiving Definitive Treatment

Table 2.
was greater for non-Latino Whites than for Latinos; younger age had more than a 1.5-fold greater odds of treatment in non-Latinos (age <55 vs 65–74 years: OR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.33–2.79, and age 55–64 vs 65–74 years: OR, 1.52; 95% CI, 1.28–1.80), but no significant association in Latinos (age <55 vs 65–74 years: OR, 1.50; 95% CI, 0.92–2.46, and age 55–64 vs 65–74 years: OR, 1.06; 95% CI, 0.82–1.37).

Low (≤6) vs high (8–10) Gleason score had an inverse association with definitive treatment for both non-Latino whites and Latinos, but the association of Gleason score 7 (GS7) with treatment differed between ethnicities. Non-Latino whites with GS7 disease were just as likely to receive definitive treatment as their counterparts with high-grade disease (OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.86–1.19), whereas Latinos with GS7 disease were less likely to be treated definitively than Latinos with high-grade disease (OR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.59–0.97).

Although lack of insurance was associated with undertreatment for both ethnicities, the association between being uninsured and lack of definitive treatment was considerably more pronounced for Latinos (OR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.23–0.49) than for non-Latino whites (OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.47–0.83). Uninsured Latinos were only one-third as likely to receive definitive treatment for high-risk disease as those with insurance. Care at NCI-designated Cancer Centers was associated with a 57% greater odds of definitive treatment in non-Latino men (OR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.32–1.86), but no association was observed for Latinos (OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 0.78–1.47).

The associations of cancer stage, PSA level, marital status, and nSES with definitive treatment were similar for Latinos and non-Latino whites.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Association of clinical and nonclinical factors with the receipt of definitive treatment.

Abbreviations: nSES, neighborhood socioeconomic status; PSA, prostate-specific antigen.

aP<.05 for Wald test comparing the odds ratios for Latino and non-Latino white men.

Citation: Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network J Natl Compr Canc Netw 16, 11; 10.6004/jnccn.2018.7060

Discussion

Men with high-risk localized PCa have a significant risk of disease progression and disease-specific mortality, and major guidelines2,3 recommend definitive therapy for all patients with no contraindications. We found that California Latino men with high-risk localized disease were less likely to receive guideline-concordant care than their non-Latino white counterparts, and this treatment disparity was largely accounted for by sociodemographic factors. However, the influence of these factors differed by ethnicity, suggesting that Latino men may interact with healthcare systems differently or face different barriers to care. Although extent of disease (as represented by clinical stage and PSA value), marital status, and nSES were similarly associated with definitive treatment for both Latinos and non-Latino whites, we found that Latinos who were younger, uninsured, or had intermediate-grade disease were undertreated relative to non-Latino whites.

Treatment decisions for localized PCa require a complex risk/benefit analysis which entails an assessment of the risk of symptomatic disease progression and death in light of the patient's current life expectancy, functional status, and quality of life. Any gains in future life expectancy resulting from treatment must be balanced against potential losses in quality of life. Based on this decision-making framework, younger patients and patients with more aggressive tumors would be most likely to benefit from, and presumably receive, definitive treatment. Although this expected association with age held for non-Latino whites in our study, it was much less pronounced in Latinos. Young Latinos were no more likely to be treated definitively than their 65- to 74-year-old counterparts. Similarly, the effect of disease aggressiveness on receipt of treatment differed between ethnicities. Although intermediate-grade disease was managed as aggressively as high-grade disease in non-Latino whites, Latinos with intermediate-grade disease were less likely to receive definitive treatment than those with high-grade disease.

There are many ways in which patient, provider, and system level factors can interact to affect the receipt of appropriate treatment, and obstacles may arise at several points along the treatment continuum. Physician recommendations have been identified as one of the most important factors influencing treatment decisions among Latinos16,17 and men with PCa.18,19 However, effective patient–provider communication may be hampered by language barriers and low health literacy in the Latino population.20,21 Ineffective communication about, or differences in perception of, risk of disease progression may play a role in the relative undertreatment of younger Latino men and those with intermediate-grade PCa. Physician treatment recommendations for Latino patients may also be influenced by implicit bias, which operates unconsciously and is frequently contrary to an individual's explicit beliefs and values. Implicit bias has been correlated with treatment decisions in several healthcare settings,22 and may inadvertently influence the way information is conveyed and the options that are offered to Latino patients.

Ethnic differences may also exist in patient preference. Patient-reported sexual23 and bowel24 issues after PCa treatment may be worse for Latinos compared with non-Latino whites, and avoidance of side effects could influence patient choices. Cultural factors may also play a role; familism (favoring familial needs over individual needs), fatalism (sense of lack of control over health and illness), and machismo (male-dominant gender roles)25 could result in reluctance to undergo definitive treatment among Latino men.

Social and financial barriers can affect both the decision to obtain treatment and access to treatment. For Latinos, lack of insurance was the socioeconomic factor most strongly associated with undertreatment. This association was much stronger for Latinos than non-Latinos, and suggests that uninsured Latinos face greater obstacles to obtaining safety-net care. In California, the responsibility for providing care to the medically indigent rests with individual counties, which vary widely in services provided and eligibility criteria (eg, income, immigration status).26 The geographic distribution of the Latino population may coincide with availability of more limited safety-net services. It is also possible that Latinos may not be as well-informed about the availability of special programs and safety-net services, and may have difficulty obtaining this information due to language barriers.

We found that lack of insurance and low nSES were independently associated with undertreatment of high-risk localized PCa. The Latino population in California generally has lower income and educational attainment than the non-Latino white population, and Latinos are more likely to work in non-professional occupations, such as construction and agriculture.12 The nature of this work may make it difficult to take sufficient time off for treatment, and treatment-related side effects may make continued employment in these industries difficult.21 Even with insurance to cover medical expenses, some Latinos (especially younger men, who are more likely to be primary wage earners) may be less able to withstand the income disruption that accompanies treatment, leading them to forego definitive management of their disease.

Latinos may also be disproportionately affected by healthcare system–level barriers. Availability and quality of care has been shown to differ for Medicaid-insured patients,9,2729 and a greater proportion of Latinos in our study had Medicaid insurance. Furthermore, receipt of care is often fragmented, requiring visits to several different facilities and providers. For Latinos, language and cultural barriers may compound difficulties navigating such a healthcare system. Despite greater availability of enhanced services, such as translators and patient navigators, care at NCI-designated Cancer Centers was not associated with definitive management for Latinos in our study, suggesting that individual-level factors may exert a stronger influence on receipt of treatment than facility-level factors.

Although our study highlights some important differences in receipt of care between Latino and non-Latino white men in California, it has several limitations. First, we excluded patients based on unknown cancer stage, tumor grade, and PSA level, and the proportions of patients with unknown values differed by ethnicity. To control for this selection bias, we repeated our analyses using inverse probability weighting and found that the results of the weighted and unweighted analyses were essentially unchanged (data not shown).

Second, the CCR does not record comorbidity and therefore we were unable to determine whether definitive management was contraindicated and appropriately not received. However, it is unlikely that differences in comorbidity burden would explain the observed disparity. Although Latinos have a higher prevalence of diabetes and obesity, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and stroke is lower.30 Moreover, in the United States, Latinos have a higher life expectancy than non-Latino whites,30 suggesting that the overall comorbidity burden in the Latino population is not greater than that of the non-Latino white population. Furthermore, the 5-year overall survival rate for a similar cohort of high-risk patients in the CCR diagnosed between 2004 and 2009 was 78.1% in Latinos and 77.1% in non-Latino whites, suggesting that regardless of comorbidity status these men would benefit from treatment.

Third, it is possible that some men may have been misclassified with respect to receipt of treatment, especially if they were treated outside of California. Although the CCR has data-sharing agreements with other states, treatment administered in another country, such as Mexico, would not be captured by the registry. In the 2001 California Health Interview Survey, 1.4% of Latino men reported receiving medical care in another country.31 However, it would have required misclassification of treatment for at least 7.5% of Latino men in our study to eliminate the disparity we observed. Additionally, because others have reported similar treatment disparities in nationwide populations,8,10 it is unlikely that treatment misclassification could completely explain the observed disparity.

Finally, we acknowledge that Latinos are a diverse population; unfortunately, our data do not allow for disaggregation by Latino origin. In California, >80% of Latinos are of Mexican origin,12 and our findings may not generalize to other Latino populations.

Despite these limitations, our study is the first to address treatment patterns for high-risk PCa specifically in Latinos. It provides important insights by highlighting ethnic differences in the association of clinical and sociodemographic factors with treatment, thus identifying potential targets for intervention. As a first step, clinicians should be aware that nonclinical factors may affect treatment decisions, and should do their utmost to ensure that all men are equally informed of and understand their prognosis and treatment choices. This may be facilitated through the use of interpreters and the availability of culturally sensitive and language-appropriate informational materials and decision-making tools. Increased awareness of potential subconscious biases could also help ensure that treatment options are presented equally to Latino and non-Latino patients. Latino men who are younger, are uninsured, or have intermediate-grade disease are at higher risk of undertreatment, and therefore providers may want to target these groups. The use of resources, such as social workers and patient navigators, may help overcome system-level barriers to obtaining appropriate treatment, and facilitate community outreach specific to Latino enclaves and low SES neighborhoods.

Our study underscores the importance of health insurance for receipt of appropriate treatment, especially among the Latino community. Data from this study preceded the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which increased the availability of health insurance through the expansion California's Medicaid program and opening of the health insurance marketplace. Yet, it is likely that the treatment disparity we observed persists; 2 years after ACA implementation, more than half of Californians who lacked health insurance were Latino.32 At a policy level, continued efforts should be made to target uninsured men, either through implementation of new programs or expansion of existing programs, such as the IMPACT program, which provides free PCa treatment to uninsured and underinsured men in California.

Conclusions

In California, Latinos are less likely to receive guideline-concordant care for localized high-risk PCa than non-Latinos whites. This treatment disparity may largely be accounted for by sociodemographic factors, suggesting it may be ameliorated through targeted interventions. To be effective, however, such interventions need to address the unique barriers to care in the Latino population.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported in part by the NCI's SEER Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (D.Y.L.) and by the Stanford Cancer Institute (I.C., S.L.G). The collection of cancer incidence data used in this study was supported by the California Department of Public Health as part of the statewide cancer reporting program mandated by California Health and Safety Code Section 103885; the NCI's SEER Program under contract HHSN261201000140C awarded to the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, contract HHSN261201000035C awarded to the University of Southern California, and contract HHSN261201000034C awarded to the Public Health Institute; and the CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries, under agreement U58DP003862-01 awarded to the California Department of Public Health. The ideas and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and endorsement by the State of California, Department of Public Health, the NCI, and the CDC or their contractors and subcontractors is not intended nor should be inferred.

The authors have disclosed that they have no financial interests, arrangements, affiliations, or commercial interests with the manufacturers of any products discussed in this article or their competitors.

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Author contributions: Study conception and design: Lichtensztajn, Cheng. Data analysis and interpretation: All authors. Statistical analysis: Lichtensztajn. Manuscript preparation: Lichtensztajn, Cheng. Critical revision and final approval of manuscript: All authors.

Correspondence: Daphne Y. Lichtensztajn, MD, MPH, Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, University of California, San Francisco, 550 16th Street, MH-2841, San Francisco, CA 94158. Email: Dlichtensztajn@psg.ucsf.edu
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    Association of clinical and nonclinical factors with the receipt of definitive treatment.

    Abbreviations: nSES, neighborhood socioeconomic status; PSA, prostate-specific antigen.

    aP<.05 for Wald test comparing the odds ratios for Latino and non-Latino white men.

  • 1.

    Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics, 2017. CA Cancer J Clin 2017;67:730.

  • 2.

    Mohler JL, Lee RJ, Antonarakis ES et al. . NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Prostate Cancer. Version 3.2018. Accessed October 2, 2018. To view the most recent version of these guidelines, visit NCCN.org.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Mottet N, Bellmunt J, Briers E et al. . EAU-ESTRO-SIOG Guidelines on Prostate Cancer. Available at: https://uroweb.org/wp-content/uploads/EAU-Guidelines-Prostate-Cancer-2016.pdf. Accessed April 28, 2017. Updated March 2016.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Lu-Yao GL, Albertsen PC, Moore DF et al. . Fifteen-year outcomes following conservative management among men aged 65 years or older with localized prostate cancer. Eur Urol 2015;68:805811.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Daskivich TJ, Fan KH, Koyama T et al. . Effect of age, tumor risk, and comorbidity on competing risks for survival in a U.S. population-based cohort of men with prostate cancer. Ann Intern Med 2013;158:709717.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Bastian PJ, Boorjian SA, Bossi A et al. . High-risk prostate cancer: from definition to contemporary management. Eur Urol 2012;61:10961106.

  • 7.

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