New Research Examines the Impact of Ethnicity on Overall Survival in Brain Cancer

Patients who are White British and have been diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumor were found to have a shorter survival compared with patients of other ethnicities.

Patients with a malignant primary brain tumor who are White and British were found to be more likely to die within 1 year of being diagnosed compared with patients from other ethnic groups, according to a research presented at the 2021 National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Festival.

Patients who were an ethnicity other than White and British had a 30% less chance of dying within 1 year compared with those who were White and British. When examining individual races, Indian patients had a 16% decreased risk of death, in addition to a 17% decrease for other White patients and 19% for patients of unknown origins.

“Brain tumors are under-researched compared [with] other cancers, and until now, no study has investigated the impact of a person’s ethnicity on brain tumor survival using information on patients in the whole of England. The improved and detailed cancer data captured by the National Disease Registration Service now within NHS Digital provided a good opportunity to explore the impact of varied ethnic groups on brain tumor survival for the whole of England,” Hiba Wanis (MPhil), PhD, student and research assistant at the Centre for Cancer, Society & Public Health, King’s College London, said in a press release.

In order to calculate the risk of dying after being diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumor, investigators assessed data from 24,319 patients who had been diagnosed with a malignant primary brain tumor in England between 2012 and 2017. They then calculated risk based on ethnicities such White British, other White, other ethnic, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Black African, and Black Caribbean. Patients were followed up to 1 year after diagnosis.

Between 2012 and 2017, 13,339 patients who were White and British died from brain tumors, which comprised 64% of the total population of patients who had been diagnosed. In comparison, a total of 19 patients of Bangladeshi origin, 166 of Indian origin, 533 of other White origin, 95 of Pakistani origin, and 280 (41.5%) of other ethnic group had died within the same timeframe.

Additional findings from the study highlighted a correlation between ethnicity and survival rates, althought investigators are considering other factors that may play a role in patient outcomes. Moving forward, the investigators hope that findings from the analysis may lend insights into patients’ prognosis, as well as helping patients to understand their risk level compared with other groups of patients.

“It is probably too early to speculate on what may lie behind these differences, but a number of factors may be involved. These include how early people ask their doctors about symptoms, how early in the disease a diagnosis is made, better reporting, lifestyle and cultural factors, deprivation, tumor characteristics and behavior, and treatment options,” Wanis concluded.


Does ethnicity play a role in survival from brain tumors? News Release. National Cancer Research Institute. November 9, 2021. Accessed November 11, 2021.

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