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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Sep 1;96(17):1322-30.

Burden of illness in cancer survivors: findings from a population-based national sample.

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  • 1Health Services and Economics Branch/Applied Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892-7344, USA.



Population trends in aging and improved cancer survival are likely to result in increased cancer prevalence in the United States, but few estimates of the burden of illness among cancer survivors are currently available. The purpose of this study was to estimate the burden of illness in cancer survivors in a national, population-based sample.


A total of 1823 cancer survivors and 5469 age-, sex-, and educational attainment-matched control subjects were identified from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. Multiple measures of burden, including utility, a summary measure of health, and days lost from work, were compared using two-sided tests of statistical significance for the two groups overall and for subgroups stratified by tumor site and time since diagnosis.


Compared with matched control subjects, cancer survivors had poorer outcomes across all burden measures (P<.01). Cancer survivors had lower utility values (0.74 versus 0.80; P<.001) and higher levels of lost productivity and were more likely to report their health as fair or poor (31.0% versus 17.9%; P<.001) than matched control subjects. Cancer survivors reported statistically significantly higher burden than did control subjects across tumor sites and across time since diagnosis (i.e., within the past year, 2-5 years, 6-10 years, and > or =11 years for the majority of measures.


Cancer survivors have poorer health outcomes than do similar individuals without cancer across multiple burden measures. These decrements are consistent across tumor sites and are found in patients many years following reported diagnosis. Improved measurement of long-term burden of illness will be important for future prospective research.

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