Longer cancer survival means nearly half of cancer patients die from other diseases

In collaboration with the Press Association

Improved cancer survival rates mean that up to half of people diagnosed with cancer actually die from other diseases, according to US research.

A study of 1,807 cancer survivors showed that a large proportion of the people had conditions like heart disease and diabetes in addition to their cancer.

Over 18 years, 776 of the study participants died. But while 51 per cent of these people died as a result of cancer recurrences, 49 per cent died from other causes.

The research showed that people had a greater chance of dying from a condition other than cancer the longer they survived after their original cancer diagnosis.

A research team was led by Professor Yi Ning from Virginia Commonwealth University, who looked cancer survivors who had taken part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The study was presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2012.

Professor Ning said: "After the detection of cancer, clinicians and cancer survivors pay less attention to the prevention and treatment of other diseases and complications.

"We shouldn't neglect other aspects of health because we are focused on cancer and overlook other chronic conditions."

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: "Survival rates for cancer are getting better. So more and more, the needs of long-term survivors must be considered, both in terms of other conditions they may develop and relating to long term side effects of their treatment.

The study looked at cancer survivors overall.

Mr Ledwick added: "Within different types of cancer and for individual patients, outlook can vary."

Copyright Press Association 2012

References

  • Y Ning et al. Cause of cancer death in survivors. AACR meeting (2012) Abstract