Cancer survivors have low levels of physical activity

May 8, 2008

A new study reveals that many cancer survivors are inactive and obese, which may negatively affect the control of their disease. The findings, which come from a study of cancer survivors in Canada, show that a cancer diagnosis does not appear to prompt significant behavior change and that interventions to increase physical activity and promote better eating habits among cancer survivors are warranted.

A new study reveals that many cancer survivors are inactive and obese, which may negatively affect the control of their disease. The findings, which come from a study of cancer survivors in Canada, show that a cancer diagnosis does not appear to prompt significant behavior change and that interventions to increase physical activity and promote better eating habits among cancer survivors are warranted.

To determine this prevalence and compare it to individuals without a history of cancer, Kerry S. Courneya, PhD, of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, analyzed data from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey consisting of computer-assisted interviews of more than 114,000 adults. Survey participants reported their cancer history, height, body weight, and participation in various leisure time activities.

The study revealed that less than 22% of cancer survivors were physically active, with the lowest rates reported by male and female colorectal cancer survivors, female melanoma survivors, and breast cancer survivors. Also, nearly one in five (18%) of cancer survivors was obese, and one in three (34%) was overweight with little variation among the cancer survivor groups. The authors concluded that cancer survivors have low levels of physical activity and a high prevalence of obesity that are comparable to the general population.

However, some differences were found between cancer survivors and those without a history of cancer. Prostate cancer survivors were more likely to be active and less likely to be obese than men without a history of cancer, and male skin cancer survivors were more likely to be active than their disease-free counterparts.

The study was published in the April 21 online issue of Cancer.