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The American Cancer Society (ACS) reported this week that Medicaid and uninsured cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of cancer than those with private insurance. The group said many of these advanced cancers could have been detected earlier through proper screening, and suggested people without private health insurance aren’t getting the best available care in cancer prevention and early detection.

The ACS based its findings on a study of 3.5 million cancer patients who had been diagnosed with one of the 12 most common types of cancer.

Previous studies comprised of smaller patient groups had found that insurance status is an important factor in ensuring timely diagnosis and care. However, these studies examined specific types of cancer. This is the first of its kind large-scale national study to conclusively link a late-stage cancer diagnosis with insurance status across a broad range of cancer types.

“The current study provides new information on insurance status and stage at diagnosis for 10 cancer sites that have not been studied previously and confirms the results for two that were previously studied (breast and colon/rectum),” said the study’s co-authors, Michael Halpern and Elizabeth Ward, in an American Cancer Society press release about the study……… The largest patient group was women with breast cancer, (21.8%), followed by men and women with lung cancer (18.5%), men with prostate cancer (18.4%), and men and women with colorectal cancer (14.4%).

The authors concluded that the study results have significant implications for the US health-care system and policy decisions regarding health-care reform.

To read the entire article click here.

The study, “Association of insurance status and ethnicity with cancer stage at diagnosis for 12 cancer sites: a retrospective analysis” was Published February, 17, 2008 in The Lancet Oncology. A summary of the report can be viewed at

The American Cancer Society’s Press Release about the study can be viewed here.