Mental and physical health-related quality of life among U.S. cancer survivors: population estimates from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012 Nov;21(11):2108-17. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0740. Epub 2012 Oct 30.


Background: Despite extensive data on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among cancer survivors, we do not yet have an estimate of the percentage of survivors with poor mental and physical HRQOL compared with population norms. HRQOL population means for adult-onset cancer survivors of all ages and across the survivorship trajectory also have not been published.

Methods: Survivors (N = 1,822) and adults with no cancer history (N = 24,804) were identified from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. The PROMIS® Global Health Scale was used to assess HRQOL. Poor HRQOL was defined as 1 SD or more below the PROMIS® population norm.

Results: Poor physical and mental HRQOL were reported by 24.5% and 10.1% of survivors, respectively, compared with 10.2% and 5.9% of adults without cancer (both P < 0.0001). This represents a population of approximately 3.3 million and 1.4 million U.S. survivors with poor physical and mental HRQOL. Adjusted mean mental and physical HRQOL scores were similar for breast, prostate, and melanoma survivors compared with adults without cancer. Survivors of cervical, colorectal, hematologic, short-survival, and other cancers had worse physical HRQOL; cervical and short-survival cancer survivors reported worse mental HRQOL.

Conclusion: These data elucidate the burden of cancer diagnosis and treatment among U.S. survivors and can be used to monitor the impact of national efforts to improve survivorship care and outcomes.

Impact: We present novel data on the number of U.S. survivors with poor HRQOL. Interventions for high-risk groups that can be easily implemented are needed to improve survivor health at a population level.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology