Association of Living in Urban Food Deserts with Mortality from Breast and Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Ann Surg Oncol. 2020 Aug 25. doi: 10.1245/s10434-020-09049-6. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Food deserts are neighborhoods with low access to healthy foods and are associated with poor health metrics. We investigated association of food desert residence and cancer outcomes.

METHODS: In this population-based study, data from the 2000-2012 California Cancer Registry was used to identify patients with stage II/III breast or colorectal cancer. Patient residence at time of diagnosis was linked by census tract to food desert using the USDA Food Access Research Atlas. Treatment and outcomes were compared by food desert residential status.

RESULTS: Among 64,987 female breast cancer patients identified, 66.8% were < 65 years old, and 5.7% resided in food deserts. Five-year survival for food desert residents was 78% compared with 80% for non-desert residents (p < 0.0001). Among 48,666 colorectal cancer patients identified, 50.4% were female, 39% were > 65 years old, and 6.4% resided in food deserts. Five-year survival for food desert residents was 60% compared with 64% for non-desert residents (p < 0.001). Living in food deserts was significantly associated with diabetes, tobacco use, poor insurance coverage, and low socioeconomic status (p < 0.05) for both cancers. There was no significant difference in rates of surgery or chemotherapy by food desert residential status for either diagnosis. Multivariable analyses showed that food desert residence was associated with higher mortality.

CONCLUSION: Survival, despite treatment for stage II/III breast and colorectal cancers was worse for those living in food deserts. This association remained significant without differences in use of surgery or chemotherapy, suggesting factors other than differential care access may link food desert residence and cancer outcomes.