Physical Functioning among Women 80 Years of Age and Older With and Without a Cancer History

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2016 Mar;71 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S23-30. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glv073.


Background: Females 80 years and older comprise 22% of the total U.S. survivor population, yet the impact of cancer on the physical well-being of women is this age group has not been well characterized.

Methods: We compared women, 80 years of age and older in the Women's Health Initiative extension 2, who did (n = 2,270) and did not (n = 20,272) have an adjudicated history of cancer during Women's Health Initiative enrollment; analyses focused on women >2-years postcancer diagnosis. The physical functioning subscale of the RAND-36 was the primary outcome. Demographic, health-status, and psychosocial covariates were drawn from Women's Health Initiative assessments. Analysis of covariance was used to examine the effect of cancer history on physical function, with and without adjustment for covariates.

Results: In adjusted models, women with a history of cancer reported significantly lower mean physical functioning (56.6, standard error [SE] 0.4) than those without a cancer history (58.0, SE 0.1), p = .002. In these models, younger current age, lower body mass index, increased physical activity, higher self-rated health, increased reported happiness, and the absence of noncancer comorbid conditions were all associated with higher physical functioning in both women with and without a history of cancer.

Conclusions: Women older than 80 years of age with a cancer history have only a moderately lower level of physical function than comparably aged women without a cancer history. Factors associated with higher levels of physical functioning were similar in both groups.

Keywords: Cancer; Comorbidities; Physical function; Survivor; Women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*