Purpose: To estimate the prevalence of frailty among childhood cancer survivors and to determine the direct and indirect effects of treatment exposures, lifestyle factors, and severe, disabling, and life-threatening chronic condition on frailty.
Methods: Childhood cancer survivors (≥ 5 years since diagnosis), treated between 1970 and 1999 when < 21 years old (n = 10,899; mean age, 37.6 ± 9.4 years; 48% male, 86% white) and siblings were included (n = 2,097; mean age, 42.9 ± 9.4 years). Frailty was defined as ≥ 3 of the following: low lean mass, exhaustion, low energy expenditure, walking limitations, and weakness. Generalized linear models were used to evaluate direct and indirect associations between frailty and treatment exposures, sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle factors, and chronic condition.
Results: The overall prevalence of frailty among survivors was 3 times higher compared with siblings (6.4%; 95% CI, 4.1% to 8.7%; v 2.2%; 95% CI, 1.2% to 3.2%). Survivors of CNS tumors (9.5%; 95% CI, 5.2% to 13.8%) and bone tumors (8.1%; 95% CI, 5.1% to 11.1%) had the highest prevalence of frailty. Survivors exposed to cranial radiation, pelvic radiation ≥ 34 Gy, abdominal radiation > 40 Gy, cisplatin ≥ 600 mg/m2, amputation, or lung surgery had increased risk for frailty. These associations were partially but not completely attenuated when sociodemographic characteristics, lifestyle factors, and chronic conditions were added to multivariable models. Cranial radiation (prevalence ratio [PR], 1.47; 95% CI, 1.20 to 1.76), pelvic radiation ≥ 34 Gy (PR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.01 to 2.11), and lung surgery (PR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.28 to 2.38) remained significant after sociodemographic, lifestyle, and chronic conditions were accounted for.
Conclusion: Childhood cancer survivors reported a higher prevalence of frailty compared with siblings. Radiation and lung surgery exposures were associated with increased risk for frailty. Interventions to prevent, delay onset, or remediate chronic disease and/or promote healthy lifestyle are needed to decrease the prevalence of frailty and preserve function in this at-risk population.