Physical performance and subsequent disability and survival in older adults with malignancy: results from the health, aging and body composition study

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Jan;58(1):76-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02620.x.


Objectives: To evaluate objective physical performance measures as predictors of survival and subsequent disability in older patients with cancer.

Design: Longitudinal cohort study.

Setting: Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study.

Participants: Four hundred twenty-nine individuals diagnosed with cancer during the first 6 years of follow-up of the Health ABC Study.

Measurements: The associations between precancer measures of physical performance (20-m usual gait speed, 400-m long-distance corridor walk (LDCW), and grip strength) and overall survival and a short-term outcome of 2-year progression to disability or death were evaluated. Cox proportional hazards and logistic regression models, stratified for metastatic disease, respectively, were used for outcomes.

Results: Mean age was 77.2, 36.1% were women, and 45.7% were black. Faster 20-m usual walking speed was associated with a lower risk of death in the metastatic group (hazard ratio=0.89, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.79-0.99) and lower 2-year progression to disability or death in the nonmetastatic group (odds ratio (OR)=0.77, 95% CI=0.64-0.94). Ability to complete the 400-m LDCW was associated with lower 2-year progression to disability or death in the nonmetastatic group (OR=0.24, 95% CI=0.10-0.62). There were no associations between grip strength and disability or death.

Conclusion: Lower extremity physical performance tests (usual gait speed and 400-m LDCW) were associated with survival and 2-year progression to disability or death. Objective physical performance measures may help inform pretreatment evaluations in older adults with cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Hand Strength*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors
  • Walking*