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Health Behaviors in Cancer Survivors

Deborah K. Mayer
Norma C. Terrin
Usha Menon
Gary L. Kreps
Kathy McCance
Susan K. Parsons
Kathleen H. Mooney
ONF 2007, 34(3), 643-651 DOI: 10.1188/07.ONF.643-651

Purpose/Objectives: To describe health behaviors of cancer survivors by cancer diagnosis and to compare them to people without a personal or family cancer history.

Design: Cross-sectional secondary data analysis.

Setting: A national, list-assisted telephone survey using random-digit dialing of U.S. adults about use of cancer-related information and cancer beliefs.

Sample: 619 cancer survivors and 2,141 participants without a history of cancer from the original 6,369 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) respondents.

Methods: Using the National Cancer Institute's 2003 HINTS, further analyses were conducted.

Main Research Variables: Cancer history, current smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and body mass index (BMI).

Findings: When controlling for demographic variables, no differences were found in self-reported health behaviors between survivors and those without cancer: 22.5% of survivors and 18.4% of those without cancer were current smokers, 18% of survivors and 14.9% of those without cancer consumed at least five fruits or vegetables per day, 45.3% of survivors and 53% of those without cancer were physically active at least weekly, and 58% of survivors and 54.9% of those without cancer were overweight or obese (i.e., BMI > 25). Only 7.4% of survivors and 6.4% of participants without cancer reported positively on all three health behaviors and had a healthy or normal weight.

Conclusions: Survivors did not have different health behaviors when compared to participants without a history of cancer. Neither group met the American Cancer Society or Healthy People 2010 objectives for these behaviors. Adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors should be addressed in cancer survivors.

Implications for Nursing: Cancer survivors need to be assessed for current smoking, dietary habits, physical activity, and weight. Information and resources should be made available, if needed, to promote the adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors.

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