In a recent publication in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers sought to investigate the incidence and cancer-specific patterns of functional disabilities among cancer survivors in the U.S.

Using data from the 2017 to 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, researchers assessed data from 47,768 cancer survivors and 2,432,754 adults without cancer who were aged 18 years and older.

The functional disabilities evaluated by the researchers included mobility disability (i.e., impairments/serious trouble walking or climbing stairs) and self-care disability (i.e., self-reported problems dressing or bathing).

The researchers utilized multivariable logistic regression models to evaluate the relationships between functional disabilities and sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health-related factors.

The results revealed that mobility disability was reported as 27.9% for cancer survivors and 13.4% for adults without cancer. Self-care disability was reported as 7.4% and 3.8% in cancer survivors and adults without cancer, respectively. After multivariable adjustments, cancer survivors were more prone to report mobility disability (odds ratio [OR], 1.21; 95% CI, 1.16-1.26) and self-care (OR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.10-1.29) disability when compared with adults without cancer.

Moreover, the prevalence of mobility (34.9% vs. 26.3%) and self-care disability (9.8% vs. 6.7%) were greater in cancer survivors who were receiving active cancer treatment than in those who had completed cancer treatment. Among cancer survivors who were racial/ethnic minorities, with higher BMI, low physical activity, lower levels of education and/or social economic status/income, comorbidities, and who were experiencing cancer/treatment-related pain, higher prevalence of mobility and self-care disabilities were observed.

Additionally, patterns and trends of mobility and self-care disabilities varied across cancer types. Data revealed that after adjusting for covariates, survivors with cancers of the pancreas, larynx/trachea and lung, bone, melanoma, breast, cervix, uterus, ovary, kidney, brain, and thyroid and leukemia were more likely to report a mobility disability than adults without cancer.

Based on their findings, the authors concluded, “Over a quarter of U.S. cancer survivors reported mobility disability, and nearly 10% reported self-care disability, with patterns varying across cancer types and treatment status. Racial/ethnic minorities, along with underserved groups and individuals with unhealthy lifestyles or comorbidities, were notably more affected by functional disabilities, underscoring the need for targeted disability prevention efforts.”

Finally, the authors noted that these findings highlight the need to increase patient and provider awareness regarding the incidence of functional disabilities and the necessity to develop approaches to reduce/prevent disability and to implement early clinical detection/management.

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