New Study Reveals that Cancer Survivors have Worse Health-Related Quality of Life than Others

Julie Silver, MD

There have been many studies published looking at health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in cancer survivors, but for the first time a new study compared people with and without a cancer history.[1] Not surprisingly but nevertheless very concerning is that cancer survivors reported a much worse HRQOL for both physical and emotional health compared to population norms.

In this new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, Wake Forest lead researcher, Kathryn Weaver, used the PROMIS® Global Health Scale to assess HRQOL in 1,822 adults with a history of cancer and 24,804 people who had never been diagnosed with cancer.

Weaver and colleagues found that poor physical health was reported by 24.5% of cancer survivors and only 10.2% of those without a history of cancer. Poor mental health was reported by 10.1% of cancer survivors compared with 5.9% of adults without a cancer diagnosis.

This study suggests that 3.3 million cancer survivors in the United States have poor physical health and 1.4 million have poor mental health.

Other recent studies have shown the close relationship between physical and emotional health with several studies citing disability as the most common reason for distress in cancer survivors.[2] This research documents an important opportunity for evidence-based cancer rehabilitation interventions to improve both physical and emotional HRQOL in cancer survivors.


[1] Weaver KE, Forsythe LP, Reeve BB, Alfano CM, Rodriguez JL, Sabatino SA, et al. Mental and Physical Health-Related Quality of Life among U.S. Cancer Survivors: Population Estimates from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention : a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, cosponsored by the American Society of Preventive Oncology. 2012. Epub 2012/11/01. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0740. PubMed PMID: 23112268.

[2] Banks E, Byles JE, Gibson RE, Rodgers B, Latz IK, Robinson IA, et al. Is psychological distress in people living with cancer related to the fact of diagnosis, current treatment or level of disability? Findings from a large Australian study. The Medical journal of Australia. 2010;193(5 Suppl):S62-7. Epub 2011/05/06. PubMed PMID: 21542449.