This increase was likely caused by disaster-related health care disruptions, said Sue Anne Bell, an assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing and a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Bell is first author on two unrelated studies that outline these findings: The most recent compares cancer patients in Louisiana who experienced Katrina to similar patients who did not experience a hurricane.

While the study didn't look specifically at cancer patients, the overall findings may help explain the higher breast cancer mortality rate for Katrina survivors, Bell said.

What does it mean if your access to health care is disrupted for an even longer period of time because of a disaster?"

The study was limited by the difficulty quantifying geographic inequalities that account for higher mortality among poor people diagnosed with cancer.

We need more precise ways to measure what happens to people after a disaster."

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