Individuals who were diagnosed with cancer as adolescents or young adults are more likely to report having chronic health conditions, having poor mental health, or being disabled than others in their age cohort, according to study findings published today in the journal Cancer. They were also more likely to smoke.
As a consequence of cancer and treatment for cancer, people who were diagnosed with cancer when aged 15 to 29 years are at increased risk of death compared with others their age and also have an elevated risk of cardiovascular and lung problems. To further explore the long-term heath outcomes of this group, researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed survey responses, collected as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 4054 people with a history of cancer in adolescence or young adulthood and 345 592 people with no cancer history.
The researchers found that compared with other young people with no cancer history, young survivors of cancer were more likely to report smoking (26% vs 18%), be classified as obese (31% vs 27%), have poor physical health (24% vs 10%) and poor mental health (20% vs 10%), and report being disabled (36% vs 18%). These individuals were also more likely to have chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (14% vs 7%), hypertension (35% vs 29%), and asthma (15% vs 8%), as well as more likely to forgo medical care because of cost (24% vs 15%).
“Our findings reveal that adolescent and young adult cancer survivors commonly reported unhealthy behaviors, chronic medical conditions, poor health-related quality of life, and significant barriers to health care access, which may lead to poor long-term medical and psychosocial outcomes,” the authors stated.
The authors suggest that physicians treating adolescents and adults with cancer should focus more attention on long-term outcomes, such as by creating survivorship care plans. They also urge physicians caring for these patients later in life to pay greater attention to promoting healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, and addressing lasting health problems.