Public Release:  Many adolescent and young adult cancer survivors have poor long-term physical and mental health

Wiley

A new analysis has found that many adolescent and young adult cancer survivors have unhealthy behaviors, chronic medical conditions, a poor quality of life, and significant barriers to health care access. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the study indicates that greater efforts are needed to provide quality follow-up care to adolescent and young adult cancer survivors and to encourage them to live more healthily.

Persons diagnosed with cancer as an adolescent or young adult have an increased risk of experiencing long-term illnesses and dying early not only because of their disease but also because of late side effects from their treatments. To get a better sense of the long-term health of adolescent and young adult cancer survivors, Eric Tai, M.D., of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in Atlanta, and his colleagues examined 2009 data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey that monitors health behaviors, chronic diseases, injuries, access to health care, and preventive health care on an ongoing basis. The 2009 survey included all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

The investigators compared survey information from 4,054 adolescent and young adult cancer survivors (cancer survivors whose age at first cancer diagnosis was between 15 and 29 years) and 345,592 individuals without a history of cancer.

Compared with cancer-free respondents, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors reported a higher prevalence of current smoking (26 percent versus 18 percent), obesity (31 percent versus 27 percent), chronic conditions including heart disease (14 percent versus 7 percent), high blood pressure (35 percent versus 29 percent), asthma (15 percent versus 8 percent), disability (36 percent versus 18 percent), poor mental (20 percent versus 10 percent) and physical health (24 percent versus 10 percent), and forgoing medical care because of cost (24 percent versus 15 percent).

These findings suggest that adolescent and young adult cancer survivors commonly experience negative behavioral, medical, and health care access traits, which may lead to poor long-term medical and psychological health. "Many of these negative behaviors and characteristics are potentially modifiable," said Dr. Tai. He added that clinical guidelines offer doctors and other clinicians valuable information on how to provide proper follow-up care for cancer survivors and how to intervene to promote healthy habits.

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