PhotoThe Obama Administration has been doing its best to persuade young people to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That's because younger people are less likely to get sick, thereby helping to hold down the price of healthcare coverage if they can be persuaded to sign up.

But there's another reason, perhaps more compelling, for adolescents and young adults to have health insurance -- and that is that they are far more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed with late-stage cancer, which is more deadly, more expensive and much harder to treat than cancer that's detected earlier.

So says a new American Cancer Society study, published early online, that will appear in the March issue of the journal CANCER.

The study's authors says their data suggest a way forward for cancer control efforts in the adolescent and young adult population, a group that has benefited the least from recent progress in 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 researchers say in their report.

260,000 patients studied

For their study, researchers led by Anthony Robbins, M.D., Ph.D., American Cancer Society director of health services research, analyzed data from nearly 260,000 cancer patients ages 15 to 39 in the National Cancer Database.

After adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, facility type, ZIP code-based income and education levels, and U.S. Census region, it was found that uninsured males were 1.51 times more likely to be diagnosed at a distant stage of disease compared with patients with private insurance. Among females, the effect of insurance was even stronger, with uninsured patients found to be 1.86 times more likely to be diagnosed at a distant stage.

Uninsured patients were younger, more likely to be male, more likely to be black or Hispanic, more likely to reside in the South, more likely to be treated in teaching/research facilities, and less likely to be treated in NCI-designated facilities. Uninsured patients were also more likely to reside in ZIP codes with the lowest median income, as well as in ZIP codes with the highest percentage of residents without a high school diploma.

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