PURPOSE: Medical late effects among cancer survivors may result in impairments that limit physical performance and activities necessary for normal participation in daily life. The aim of this analysis was to estimate the prevalence of physical performance limitations and participation restrictions among recent (< 5 years since diagnosis), and long-term (≥ 5 years) cancer survivors. METHODS: Data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were analyzed to compare the proportions of physical performance limitations and participation restrictions among 279 recent and 434 long-term cancer survivors, and among 9370 persons with no reported cancer history. Multivariable logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted prevalence odds ratios. RESULTS: Physical performance limitations were 1.5-1.8 times (53% versus 21%) and participation restrictions 1.4-1.6 times (31% versus 13%) more prevalent in cancer survivors than in those with no cancer history. Recent cancer history was associated with increased prevalence of physical performance limitation and participation restriction, particularly in survivors aged 40-49 years. CONCLUSIONS: Over half of the cancer survivors reported physical performance limitations; one third reported participation restrictions. Deficits were present many years following cancer diagnosis, even among survivors who were not elderly. Cancer survivors may benefit from evaluation for rehabilitation services long after treatment for their original disease.