Adults with a cancer history become fatigued more quickly and show lower endurance compared to adults who have never had cancer, according to a new study.
The work, “Fatigability and Endurance Performance in Cancer Survivors: Analyses From the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging,” was published in the journal Cancer.
Researchers examined data from participants of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) that included both people who had never had cancer and cancer survivors (adults with a history of cancer, but who have been cancer-free for at least 10 years).
The BLSA is a project active since 1958 and has enrolled thousands of people in the Baltimore, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area, following them for life, and performing periodic health tests. Since 2007, endurance and “fatigability” tests also were included.
This study included 334 individuals with a history of cancer and 1,331 cancer-free adults.
As part of the BLSA, fatigability, endurance performance, and cancer history were assessed every two years.
Fatigue was assessed using a five-minute treadmill walk with patients reporting their perceived exertion on a scale of 6 to 20; “high perceived fatigability” was considered for a score of 10 or higher. Endurance was measured with a 400-meter (437-yard) walk test.
The results showed that, on average, patients with a history of cancer were 1.6 times more likely to report higher perceived fatigability.
Moreover, adults 65 or older with a history of cancer were particularly susceptible to fatigability, with the results showing a 5.7 times higher risk.
Individuals with a history of cancer were less likely to complete the 400-meter walk test relative to those without a history of cancer.
Among the participants who completed the 400-meter walk, those with a history of cancer were, on average, 14 seconds slower compared to those with no cancer history.
“The main goal of cancer treatment has been survival, but studies like this suggest that we need also to examine the longer-term effects on health and quality of life,” Jennifer A. Schrack, PhD, study lead author, said in a press release. Schrack is an assistant professor in the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s department of epidemiology.
“These findings support the idea that a history of cancer is associated with higher fatigability and that this effect worsens with advancing age,” she said.
The researchers now will analyze larger groups of cancer survivors and consider other types of cancer (in this study patients had either a history of breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancer), but also the treatment and other factors. The findings stemming from these studies may help identify the long-term adverse effects of current cancer therapeutics.
“The long-term goal is that doctors and patients will be able to take those specific long-term effects into account when they decide how to treat different cancers,” said Schrack.