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J Cancer Surviv. 2015 Jun;9(2):239-51. doi: 10.1007/s11764-014-0403-1. Epub 2014 Oct 16.

The complex health profile of long-term cancer survivors: prevalence and predictors of comorbid conditions.

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Behavioral Research Center, American Cancer Society, 250 Williams St 30303, Atlanta, GA, USA,



Adult cancer survivors have complex medical profiles that may include chronic conditions beyond cancer. Few studies have examined the prevalence of comorbidities before and after a cancer diagnosis.


Cancer cases were sampled from two California cancer registries to examine medical conditions (ever experienced and developed after cancer) among 1,527 long-term breast, prostate, colorectal, and gynecological cancer survivors by socio-demographic, cancer-related, and health behavior variables.


On average, survivors reported five medical conditions ever diagnosed (95 % CI, 4.8, 5.1) and 1.9 conditions (95 % CI, 1.8, 2.0) diagnosed after cancer. Breast cancer survivors reported the highest (5.8 ever, 2.9 post-cancer) and prostate survivors the lowest (4.0 ever, 1.0 post-cancer) comorbidity burden. Higher comorbidity burden was associated with older age, being a breast cancer survivor, divorced, widowed or separated, non-Hispanic White, overweight or obese, and not receiving chemotherapy. Breast and endometrial cancer survivors, as well as those more than 10 years post-diagnosis, obese, or physically inactive were more likely to report that these comorbidities occurred after cancer. Cancer treatment type, smoking, age, race/ethnicity, marital status, and education were not significant predictors of comorbidities acquired post-cancer.


Cancer survivors report a large number of medical conditions, many identified after a cancer diagnosis. Findings suggest that time since cancer diagnosis, body mass index, and activity level are important contextual variables when managing survivor's post-treatment follow-up care.


Survivors may benefit when health professionals recommend specific strategies to achieve a healthy weight and regular physical activity for better long-term health outcomes after cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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