Function in Elderly Cancer Survivors Depends on Comorbidities

Katherine S. Garman, Carl F. Pieper, Pearl Seo, Harvey Jay Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Background. Factors associated with functional status in elderly cancer survivors, in particular, comorbidity, have been inadequately studied. Methods. Of 4162 participants aged 65 and older enrolled in the Duke Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly study in 1986, 376 of the participants self-reported a diagnosis of cancer. Participants were divided into 2 comorbidity groups and 4 cancer groups. Cancer groups included 132 participants diagnosed 0-4 years ago, 117 diagnosed 5-15 years ago, 127 diagnosed > 15 years ago, and 3784 participants who had never been diagnosed with cancer. Comorbidity (self-reported stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and myocardial infarction) was classified as presence of 1 or no comorbidities (n = 3089) or 2 or more comorbidities (n = 1073). Function was assessed by Katz Activities of Daily Living, Rosow-Breslau, Nagi, and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living scales at the time of interview. Results. In a two-way analysis of covariance model of comorbidity and cancer group controlling for age, race, sex, education, marital status, depression, and cognitive status, duration of cancer survivorship does not influence most measures of function. In the subset of 376 cancer survivors, comorbidity significantly correlates with the functional status of these older cancer survivors (<0.02, for all 4 measures of function). Conclusions. In the older cancer survivor, regardless of duration following diagnosis, the presence of comorbidity rather than the history of cancer per se correlates with impaired functional status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1119-1124
Number of pages6
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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