Following a large survey of more than 22,000 US women, researchers from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa, Florida, have concluded that a significant proportion of female cancer survivors have poor health behaviors, compared with women who have not had cancer.
They suggest that identification of prevalent cancer-related behavioral risk factors provides an opportunity to boost wellness among women with a previous cancer history. The study was led by clinical psychologist Sarah M. Rausch, PhD, director of integrative medicine at Moffit, and reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Investigators administered health questionnaires to 19,948 women presenting for screening mammography. A detailed history of health behaviors was available for 18,510 women, and of this group 2,713 (14.7%) had a previous cancer history.
Dr. Rausch and colleagues reported a number of important and statistically significant results: compared with women who did not have a cancer history, cancer survivors were less likely to rate their overall health as "excellent" (13.6% vs 21.5%), to exercise moderately or strenuously (56.5% vs 63.3%), and to use complementary and alternative medicine (57.4% vs 60.2%).
Cancer survivors were more likely to be current smokers (6.3% vs. 5.5%), rate their overall health as "poor" (15.8% vs. 9.1%), and report more weight gain over time. Cervical cancer survivors (n = 370) in particular were most likely to be current smokers (15.7%) and regular alcohol users (71.7%), compared with other survivors. They also reported the largest weight gain (4.9 lbs at 5 years and 13.4 lbs at 10 years). Survivors of ovarian cancer (n = 185) and uterine cancer (n = 262) most frequently reported being obese (41% and 34.4%, respectively).
In conclusion, Dr. Rausch and colleagues wrote that their findings "suggest opportunities for tailored behavioral health risk factor interventions for specific populations of cancer survivors."