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Cancer. 2016 Jun 15;122(12):1946-53. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29914. Epub 2016 May 9.

Is it my cancer or am i just getting older?: Impact of cancer on age-related health conditions of older cancer survivors.

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Behavioral Research Center, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia.
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut.
Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, California.
Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.



The extent to which cancer exacerbates or creates new health conditions is a long-standing, unanswered question. The current prospective study examined the short-term impact of cancer on the functioning, development of, and worsening of age-related health conditions among older adults who develop cancer compared with age-matched controls.


Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry data were linked with Medicare Health Outcomes Survey (MHOS) data. A total of 921 eligible cases were Medicare beneficiaries with diagnosis of breast, colorectal, lung, or prostate cancer made between their baseline and follow-up MHOS. Using propensity score matching, 4605 controls without cancer were matched from the MHOS. Analysis of covariance and logistic regression were used to examine changes in physical functioning, activities of daily living, age-related conditions, and exacerbation of preexisting conditions for cases compared with controls.


Cancer groups demonstrated greater declines in activities of daily living and physical function compared with controls (mean, -1.53 [standard error, 0.14]), with the greatest change noted for patients with lung cancer (mean, -6.72 [standard error, 0.94]). Having a cancer diagnosis increased the risk of depression but did not increase the odds of developing arthritis in the hand and/or hip, urinary incontinence (except for prostate cancer), or vision and/or hearing problems. Having a cancer diagnosis also did not exacerbate the severity of arthritis or foot neuropathy.


The findings of the current study suggest that cancer is a stronger driver for declines in physical functioning and an increased risk of depression in older adults. Interventions are needed to decrease these risks. Clinicians need to prepare patients and families for changes in functioning levels and interventions that limit the declines for older patients with cancer are needed. Cancer 2016;122:1946-53. © 2016 American Cancer Society.


age-related conditions; aging; cancer survivor; patient-reported outcomes; physical functioning

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