Background: There is growing evidence suggesting that weight gain and inactivity after cancer are associated with poorer cancer outcomes and may predispose individuals to chronic conditions but the prevalence of these among cancer survivors is not well defined.
Objectives: To determine whether those diagnosed with cancer have a greater prevalence of chronic conditions and whether their lifestyle behaviours differ from cancer free controls.
Methods: Cross-sectional self-reported data were obtained from adults aged >18 years conducted as part of the South Australian Monitoring and Surveillance System between January 2010 and March 2012. For each cancer case, approximately two age and gender matched individuals who did not report a cancer diagnosis were randomly selected from the same data source to represent a control population.
Outcome measures: Chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia, diabetes, and osteoporosis, lifestyle behaviours (diet, physical activity and smoking), obesity, psychological distress and self-reported health. Between-group differences were assessed using McNemar’s test.
Results: 6,288 respondents (2,103 cases, 4,185 controls) were included in the analyses. Cancer cases had a higher prevalence than controls for all chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease 22.1% vs 18.4%, p=0.001; hypertension 53.3% vs 50%, p=0.015; hyperlipidaemia 47.8% vs 41.8%, p<0.001; diabetes 16% vs 13%, p=0.006; osteoporosis 13% vs 11%, p=0.013. There were no differences in lifestyle behaviours or obesity. Cancer cases were more likely to score “very high” psychological distress (2.9% vs 1.7%, p=0.005) and “poor-fair” self-rated health (33.5% vs 22.9%, p<0.001).
Conclusion: Despite similar lifestyle habits and levels of obesity the prevalence of chronic conditions was significantly higher amongst those with history of cancer compared to controls. Further research is warranted to explain this increased predisposition to chronic conditions and to determine the feasibility and the role of lifestyle interventions in their management for cancer patients and survivors.