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Monday, 19 May 2008 20:31

Quality of life low for most cancer survivors

A U.S.-Canadian research team states only a small percentage of U.S. cancer survivors meet medical recommendations on diet, smoking, and physical exercise.

The purpose of their study (according to its abstract) was “To examine the prevalence and clustering of physical activity (PA), fruit and vegetable consumption (5-A-Day), and smoking across six major cancer survivor groups and to identify any associations with health-related quality of life (HRQoL).”

Their study was based on a 2006 report by the American Cancer Society (ACS) that made three recommendations associated with healthy lifestyle behaviors in U.S. cancer survivors.

These three ACS recommendations are: (1) get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise, or an hour of strenuous physical activity, each week; (2) eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and (3) do not smoke.

Consequently, to test whether cancer survivors are meeting these three ACS recommendations, the Canadian-American researchers studied 9,105 cancer survivors of six different cancers: breast, prostate, colorectal, bladder, uterine, and melanoma.

As part of the study, each survivor completed a national cross-sectional survey that included the lifestyle behavior questions and the RAND-36 Health Status Inventory, a 36-question self-report survey.

One of the researchers—Christopher M. Blanchard, of the Department of Medicine at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada)—stated the more of these three recommendations that a cancer survivor meets or exceeds, the better his or her chance is for a health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “Physicians have often used health-related quality of life (HRQOL) to measure the effects of chronic illness in their patients to better understand how an illness interferes with a person's day-to-day life."

It continues, "Similarly, public health professionals use health-related quality of life to measure the effects of numerous disorders, short- and long-term disabilities, and diseases in different populations. Tracking health-related quality of life in different populations can identify subgroups with poor physical or mental health and can help guide policies or interventions to improve their health.” [CDC: “Health Related Quality of Life"]

Blanchard and fellow colleagues report that only a small minority, only 5%, of cancer survivors in the United States were meeting all three of these recommendations of diet, smoking, and exercise.

Specifically, the subjects were meeting the diet recommendation (five servings of fruits or vegetables each day) only 14.8 to 19.1% of the time. They were meeting the physical activity recommendation only 29.6 to 47.3% of the time. Most of them were meeting the smoking recommendation: 82.6 to 91.6%.

However, even worse, 12.5% of the cancer survivors were meeting none of the three recommendations.

What do these researchers conclude in their paper? Please read on.

The study that expresses these statistics were performed by the Blanchard team, and written up in the May 1, 2008 issue of The Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The title of the article is “Cancer Survivors’ Adherence to Lifestyle Behavior Recommendations and Associations With Health-Related Quality of Life: Results From the American Cancer Society's SCS-II.”

The researchers conclude in their paper: “Few cancer survivors are meeting the PA or 5-A-Day recommendations, and even fewer are meeting all three lifestyle recommendations."

They add, "The association between the current lifestyle recommendations and HRQoL in cancer survivors appears to be cumulative. Interventions to increase PA and fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce smoking are warranted and may have additive effects on the HRQoL of cancer survivors.”

Along with Blanchard, the other authors are Kerry S. Courneya and Keven Stein.

The three researchers represent one of these three organizations: Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and the Department of Quality of Life Research, Behavioral Research Center, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, United States.


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