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Ambulatory Function Poorer for Older Cancer Survivors

FRIDAY, March 5, 2021 -- Cancer survivors have poorer ambulatory function, which is associated with increased mortality, according to a study published online March 4 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Elizabeth A. Salerno, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues examined the association between cancer and poor ambulatory function and between ambulatory function and subsequent mortality among 233,135 adults (30,403 with cancer and 202,732 cancer-free) in the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health Study (1994 to 1996). Participants self-reported ambulatory function in 2004 to 2006 and were followed for mortality through 2011.

The researchers found that compared with cancer-free participants, survivors had increased odds of walking at the slowest pace and of mobility disability (odds ratios, 1.42 and 1.24, respectively), after adjustment for baseline demographics, health indicators, and cancer type. Increased risks for all-cause and cancer mortality were seen for survivors reporting the slowest pace versus those who walked the fastest (hazard ratios, 2.22 and 2.12, respectively). Trends were similar for mobility disability (hazard ratios > 1.64). Significant associations were seen for all-cause mortality for more than nine cancer types.

"Given that cancer survivors with poor ambulatory function had two to three times greater mortality risk than their cancer-free peers, public health efforts should focus on identifying and targeting survivors who are at-risk for poor functional health to ultimately improve survival," the authors write.

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