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Uninsured Adolescents and Young Adults at Higher Risk for Advanced Cancer Diagnoses

American Cancer Society Study of 15- to 39-Year Olds Shows Strong Link Between Insurance Status and Stage of Cancer Diagnosis

February 24, 2014

WASHINGTON – February 24, 2014 – A new American Cancer Society study shows that uninsured adolescents and young adults are up to twice as likely as those with health insurance to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, which is more difficult and expensive to treat and more deadly than cancers caught early.

The study found that uninsured males aged 15 to 39 were 1.5 times as likely as those with private insurance to be diagnosed with cancer that has metastasized to distant parts of the body, or what the study calls distant cancer. Uninsured females in that age group were nearly twice as likely as those with private insurance to be diagnosed with metastatic cancer.

The findings suggest that policies such as the Affordable Care Act that increase the number of people in America with health coverage will result in fewer late-stage cancer diagnoses and save lives.

“The Affordable Care Act, with its focus on increasing private insurance coverage of young adults and providing certain cancer screenings at no cost to patients, has the potential to make a big impact on this age group,” said Anthony Robbins, MD, PhD, the American Cancer Society’s director of health services research and the lead author of the study.

Earlier American Cancer Society research of older populations similarly showed that the uninsured are more likely than people with private insurance to be diagnosed with advanced cancer and are less likely to survive the disease.

The latest study analyzed a national sample of nearly 260,000 people in the United States aged 15 to 39 who were diagnosed with cancer between 2004 and 2010. It will appear in the March issue of the scientific journal CANCER.

An abstract of the study is at and the American Cancer Society’s summary of the findings is at A PDF copy of the full study is available upon request.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit

Steven Weiss or Alissa Crispino
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
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