Long-term survivors of cancer have more age-related functional deficits than do those who have not experienced cancer, and these deficits – as well as their cancer history – are both associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality, a study has found.
A paper published inreported the outcomes of a population-based cohort study involving 1,723 female cancer survivors and 11,145 cancer-free women enrolled in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, who were followed for 10 years.
The analysis revealed that women with a history of cancer had significantly more deficits on a geriatric assessment compared with their age-matched controls without a history of cancer. While 66% of women without a cancer history had one or more deficits, 70% of those with a history had at least one age-related deficit, and they were significantly more likely to have two or more deficits.
Cancer survivors were significantly more likely to have two or more physical function limitations than were those without a history of cancer (42.4% vs. 36.9%, P less than .0001), to have two or more comorbidities (41.3% vs. 38.2%, P = .02) and to have poor general health (23.3% vs. 17.4%, P less than .0001). They were also significantly less likely to be underweight.
The study found that both cancer history and age-related functional deficits were predictors of mortality, even after adjustment for confounders such as chronological age, smoking, and physical activity levels. The highest mortality risk was seen in cancer survivors with two or more age-related health deficits, who had a twofold greater mortality risk compared with the noncancer controls with fewer than two health deficits.
Even individuals with a history of cancer but without any health deficits still had a 1.3-1.4-fold increased risk of mortality compared with individuals without a history of cancer and without health deficits.
“These results confirm the increased risk of mortality associated with GA domain deficits and extend the research by demonstrating that a cancer history is associated with an older functional age compared with aged-matched cancer-free individuals,” wrote Cindy K. Blair, PhD, of the department of internal medicine at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and coauthors.
They noted that the study included very long-term cancer survivors who had survived for an average of 11 years before they underwent the geriatric assessment and were then followed for 10 years after that point.
“Further research is needed to identify older cancer survivors who are at risk of accelerated aging,” the authors wrote. “Interventions that target physical function, comorbidity, nutritional status, and general health are greatly needed to improve or maintain the quality of survivorship in older cancer survivors.”
The National Cancer Institute, the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, and the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center supported the study. Two authors declared grants from the National Institutes of Health related to the study.