Many cancer survivors have poor health habits

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cancer and poor health

Few studies have looked at health habits of older cancer survivors. Results of a new study reveal that many older cancer survivors have poor health habits, despite showing interest in diet and exercise. The result of poor eating and lack of exercise is decreased quality of life among older cancer survivors.

Researchers from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City examined records of 753 older cancer survivors who had been diagnosed with cancer five or more years prior to the study. Participants included breast, prostate and colorectal cancer survivors. The study, conducted by Catherine Mosher, Ph.D., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and colleagues was implemented to determine common health habits among older cancer survivors.

Recruits for the study were either self-referred or recruited through the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, the Duke Cancer Registry. Telephone interviews were conducted to determine eligibility for diet and exercise intervention in addition to assessments of quality of life, physical function, mental health, and exercise and dietary habits among cancer survivors older than age 65.


The results revealed poor health habits among older cancer survivors. Few reported meeting minimal requirements for daily exercise. Only seven percent reported healthy eating consistent with national guidelines.

Individuals with significant health problems or functional limitations were excluded from the study - a factor that may have contributed to other findings of the study. Mental and physical health exceeded the norm, despite poor health practices found among older cancer survivors.

"Our findings point to the potential negative impact of obesity and the positive effect of regular exercise and a healthy diet on physical quality of life outcomes among older, long-term cancer survivors," said Dr. Mosher.

The study showed that older cancer survivors can benefit by adopting health habits that include exercise and healthy eating. Older cancer survivors who exercise more and focus on healthy eating have better overall quality of life, compared to obese individuals chosen for the study.

Cancer; Published Online: July 27, 2009 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24436)