Central Nervous System Disease, Education, and Race Impact Radiation Refusal in Pediatric Cancer Patients
To investigate the determinants of radiation therapy refusal in pediatric cancer, we used the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry to identify 24,421 patients who met the eligibility criteria, diagnosed between 1974 and 2012. Patients had any stage of cancer, were aged 0 to 19, and received radiation therapy or refused radiation therapy when it was recommended. One hundred twenty-eight patients (0.52%) refused radiation therapy when it was recommended. Thirty-two percent of patients who refused radiation therapy ultimately died from their cancer, at a median of 7 months after diagnosis (95% confidence interval, 3-11 mo), as compared with 29.0% of patients who did not refuse radiation therapy died from their cancer, at a median of 17 months after diagnosis (95% confidence interval, 17-18 mo). On multivariable analysis, central nervous system (CNS) site, education, and race were associated with radiation refusal. The odds ratio for radiation refusal for patients with CNS disease was 1.62 (P=0.009) as compared with patients without CNS disease. For patients living in a county with ≥10% residents having less than ninth grade education, the odds ratio for radiation refusal was 1.71 (P=0.008) as compared with patients living in a county with <10% residents having less than ninth grade education. Asian, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, and American Indian races had an odds ratio of 2.12 (P=0.002) for radiation refusal as compared with black or white race. Although the radiation refusal rate in the pediatric cancer population is low, we show that CNS site, education level, and race are associated with a significant difference in radiation refusal.