Poor Neighborhoods Can Kill - Tim Rebbeck, PhD, comments on cancer disparities

January 25, 2010

New Scientist

Across the US, death rates among black women diagnosed with breast cancer are 37 percent higher than for whites, but in Chicago the difference is 68 percent. Poor access to screening and therapy is clearly an important factor. But according to a novel collaboration between sociologists and biologists, the strain of living in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the US may cause biological changes that lead directly to earlier deaths. Results from the collaboration indicate that social isolation and a fear of crime cause an overload of stress hormones that can change cell biology, sending tumors into overdrive. More broadly, other health researchers are hailing the union of biology and sociology as a model for future studies into a whole range of health disparities. "It's a great example of the kind of direction in which I can see us heading," says Tim Rebbeck, PhD, a professor of Epidemiology and the associate director for Population Sciences in the Abramson Cancer Center... read more