When it comes to alcoholic liver disease (ALD) in America, the color of one’s skin could mean the difference between life and death. A recent study examining racial gaps among ALD patients has revealed some troubling mortality trends among those in need of a transplant, MedPage Today reports.

The retrospective study, presented at Digestive Disease Week, analyzed data from U.S. adults with ALD who were listed for a transplant on the United Network for Organ Sharing LT registry between 2005 and 2016. Researchers conducted the analysis to evaluate overall rates and predictors of waiting list mortality, the probability of certain patients to receive a transplant and posttransplant mortality with a focus on race- and ethnicity-specific disparities.

They ultimately found that compared with non-Hispanic whites, Latinos were significantly less likely to receive a liver transplant. They also found that African Americans were more likely to die posttransplant than their white counterparts (though they were less likely to die while on the organ waiting list). 

Researchers also found that ALD patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, the most common form of liver cancer) also had a significantly higher waiting list mortality rate. However, they were significantly more likely to receive a transplant than those without the comorbidity. Finally, men were significantly more likely to receive a liver transplant after an ALD diagnosis than women. 

“Transplant should be an equitable process. We want to highlight the disparities,” said lead study author Robert Wong, MD, of Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital in Oakland, California. The researcher and his team are now collecting data from single- and multiple-center health systems to further investigate the gaps.