About half of cancer survivors die from diseases other than cancer, such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, a new study says.
The findings suggest cancer survivors could benefit from a more comprehensive, less cancer-focused approach to their health, the researchers say.
"After the detection of cancer, clinicians and cancer survivors pay less attention to the prevention and treatment of other diseases and complications," said study researcher Dr. Yi Ning, assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at Virginia Commonwealth University. "We shouldn't neglect other aspects of health because we are focused on cancer."
Ning and colleagues looked at data from1,807 adult cancer survivors who had participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys study between 1988 and 2004. Participants were followed for up to 17 years.
The most common forms of cancer among the participants were breast, prostate, cervical, lung and colorectal cancer; people with skin cancer were excluded from the study.
About 63.2 percent of men in the study and 66.9 percent of women had a cardiovascular condition, 58.7 percent of men and 62 percent of women had high blood pressure, and 61.3 percent of men and 70.5 percent of women had high cholesterol levels.
Over the course of the study, 776 cancer survivors died: fifty-one percent from cancer and 49 percent died from other causes. Cardiovascular disease was the primary cause of non-cancer deaths.
The longer patients survived after their initial cancer diagnosis, the more likely they were to die from another disease: 32.8 percent died from another condition within five years of diagnosis, compared with 62.7 percent after 20 years, the researchers said.
The study was presented today (April 3) at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Chicago.
Pass it on: Close to half of cancer survivors die from diseases other than cancer.