Female Cancer Survivors Report Worse Health Habits: Survey

MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Female cancer survivors are more likely to smoke and have other unhealthy behaviors than women who have never had cancer, a new study finds.

Researchers compared nearly 20,000 women ageD 35 and older with no history of cancer to more than 2,700 female cancer survivors. Both groups were undergoing mammography screening for breast cancer.

Cancer survivors aged 30 to 49 had higher rates of smoking than women with no cancer history. Cancer survivors were also less likely to engage in strenuous exercise, and were more likely to rate their health as "poor."

Cancer survivors were less likely, however, to drink alcohol at least once a month.

Body-mass index (a measure of body fat based on a person's height and weight) did not differ between the two groups, but cancer survivors reported less weight gain than the noncancer group over the previous five years, according to study author Sarah Rausch, a clinical psychologist and director of integrative medicine at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., and her colleagues.

The study was published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.

It's possible that women who have survived cancer could benefit from programs to encourage them to adopt healthier habits, the researchers said.

"The differences in health behaviors between cancer survivors and those with no cancer history afford a 'teachable moment' in which a cancer survivor may be motivated to change behaviors to promote a healthier lifestyle and prevent cancer recurrence," Rausch said in a Moffitt news release.

"As the population of cancer survivors increases, the importance of health status and quality of life of cancer survivors is even more critical," Rausch said. "Approximately 10.5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with cancer. Because of the progress in cancer diagnosis and treatment, there is a growing population of cancer survivors."

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Moffitt Cancer Center, news release, Feb. 15, 2012