More Cancer Survivors Have Metabolic Syndrome, but Knowledge and Awareness Vary Widely

July 10, 2018

While over half of survivors had heard of metabolic syndrome, in one-third with the condition, fewer than 10% had been diagnosed; educational strategies may be of benefit.

Knowledge about metabolic syndrome and its related conditions was poor among Korean cancer survivors surveyed as part of a study published in PLoS One. This was despite the fact that about one-third of the surveyed patients had metabolic syndrome.

With the number of cancer survivors worldwide increasing, more strategies are needed to improve survivorship. Cardiovascular disease, a component of metabolic syndrome, was recently identified as the leading cause of death among cancer survivors. In addition, a recent study found that cancer survivors were two to four times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than the general population.

“It is essential to assess cancer survivors’ awareness and knowledge, to develop educational strategies, and to evaluate the influences of these strategies on the compliance and quality of life to improve survivorship among cancer survivors,” wrote Yeji Seo, of Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea, and colleagues.

In this study, Seo et al sought to evaluate the level of awareness and knowledge of metabolic syndrome in cancer survivors. Participants completed a questionnaire that included information on patient demographics, disease characteristics, and knowledge and awareness of metabolic syndrome. Only about one-third of participants had completed high school, and 13.6% had completed college.

Of the 88 patients included, 34.1% had metabolic syndrome; only 6.8% had been diagnosed. According to the researchers, this “may reflect a lack of interest and awareness of metabolic syndrome among cancer survivors.”

Looking at some specific criteria, 20.5% of participants met the criteria for triglycerides, including 36% of women. In addition, 28.4% of participants met the criteria for high levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), including 20.6% of men and 48% of women.

Although 56.8% of participants had heard of metabolic syndrome, the extent of their knowledge varied considerably. Only 8% of participants said that they had “very much” knowledge about it, while 44.3% said they were “somewhat” knowledgeable and 46.6% said they had “not much” knowledge. Seventy percent of participants were not aware of the blood tests for diagnosing metabolic syndrome, despite knowing about the physical measurements that are characteristic of the condition, such as weight, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

More than half of participants said they would like to receive counseling if they learned they had metabolic syndrome.

“We postulate that the participation rate in health improvement programs will be high among cancer survivors and that these strategies can achieve positive results,” the researchers wrote. “Therefore, active interventions, such as education and public awareness campaigns, including mass media that promote health-related information, are needed to enhance the knowledge and awareness of metabolic syndrome among cancer survivors.”

Overall, they wrote that the results of the study should be interpreted with caution, because of the small sample size.