Self-reported memory problems in adult-onset cancer survivors: effects of cardiovascular disease and insomnia

Sleep Med. 2015 Jul;16(7):845-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.02.531. Epub 2015 Mar 18.


Background: Cancer and its treatments can deleteriously affect memory. Cardiac function and insomnia can exacerbate memory problems.

Objective: To examine the relationships among cardiovascular disease, insomnia, and self-reported memory problems (SRMP) in adult-onset cancer survivors.

Methods: We included data from participants (41-64 year-old) of the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative probability sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized population of the US. We excluded participants with brain cancer/stroke history since these conditions are expected to cause cognitive problems. Using binary logistic regression, we determined the prevalence of SRMP relative to cardiac problems and insomnia by weighting our results proportionally. We adjusted for predictors of memory problems: age, sex, race, education and general health.

Results: The sample included 2289 adults (49% females), 9% with a cancer history. The results pertain only to cancer survivors. Those with insomnia were 16 times as likely to have SRMP. Only insomnia symptoms (OR, 15.74; 95% CI, 1.73-143.30; p < 0.01) significantly predicted SRMP, uniquely explaining 12% of the variance. Insomnia accounted for 18.8% of the association between cardiac issues and SRMP, demonstrating mediation (Sobel p < 0.05). The large CI is a consequence of analyzing a sub-group of a subpopulation. Among participants without a cancer history, cardiovascular disease and insomnia were not associated with SRMP (p > 0.05).

Limitations: We could not determine severity and time-related changes in SRMP.

Conclusion: Likelihood of SRMP was higher in cancer survivors with a history of cardiovascular disease and insomnia symptoms. Future studies are needed to delineate the cardiac-insomnia-memory interrelationships.

Keywords: Cancer and memory problems; Cardiovascular disease; Chemobrain; Sleep problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amnesia / chemically induced*
  • Amnesia / diagnosis
  • Amnesia / epidemiology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced
  • Heart Diseases / complications*
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / chemically induced
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / epidemiology
  • Survivors* / statistics & numerical data
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents