Physical inactivity and risk of poor quality of life among elderly cancer survivors compared to women without cancer: the Iowa Women’s Health Study

Cindy K. Blair, Kim Robien, Maki Inoue-Choi, Wendy Rahn, De Ann Lazovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Purpose: Few studies have examined lifestyle factors and quality of life (QOL) in cancer survivors compared to a cancer-free group. Compared to active cancer-free women, we examined the association between physical inactivity and QOL in elderly cancer survivors and similar-aged women without cancer. Methods: Participants included 1776 cancer survivors and 12,599 cancer-free women enrolled in the Iowa Women’s Health Study in 1986 who completed the SF36 QOL assessment in 2004 (ages 73–88 years). The odds of poor QOL were computed for each SF36 subscale (>0.5 SD below mean score of cancer-free women) associated with physical inactivity (moderate-vigorous activity <once/week) between four groups based on the cross-classification of cancer history (no/yes) and physical inactivity (no/yes) (referent group = active cancer-free women). Results: Compared with the referent group, inactive cancer survivors were significantly more likely to report poor QOL for each SF36 subscale (odds ratios 1.8 to 4.7), independent of age, comorbidity, body mass index (BMI), and diet quality. The greatest odds for poor QOL occurred for general health, vitality, and physical function. These increased odds occurred regardless of whether survivors were inactive at both baseline (1986) and follow-up or became inactive sometime after baseline. Among physically active women, cancer survivors had similar QOL as cancer-free women. Conclusion: These findings provide evidence on the importance of leisure-time physical activity in older women and support the need for interventions to help older women maintain or regain a physically active lifestyle. Implications for Cancer Survivors: Survivors who remain or become physically active as they age report better mental and physical QOL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-112
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the women who so generously gave of their time to participate in the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Supported by the National Cancer Institute R01 CA039742.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Cancer survivors
  • Cohort
  • Physical activity
  • Quality of life
  • Survivorship


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