Cancer Survivors and Physical Activity

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In 2015, 38.3% of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reported no physical activity in their leisure time.

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Introduction

As the number of cancer survivors grows and expected survival time increases, the health behaviors of these individuals is becoming an important focus of attention. Adoption or maintenance of healthy lifestyles after cancer has the potential to reduce both cancer- and non-cancer-related morbidity. Tracking these behaviors permits evaluation of how well cancer control efforts are working to reduce unnecessary disability and death among those with a history of cancer.

To enhance the length and health-related quality of life of cancer survivors, efforts are needed to encourage adequate physical activity. Physical activity may reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, endometrium (lining of the uterus), and advanced prostate cancers, and it may also lower a person’s risk of other health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis (bone thinning). Being active may also help to prevent weight gain and obesity, which can reduce the risk of developing cancers that have been linked to excess body weight.

Examination of survivors’ physical activity is new to the Cancer Trends Progress Report this year.

Measure

The percentage of cancer survivors reporting no physical activity are based on the self-reporting of individuals with a cancer history who are interviewed as part of the annual population-based National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Participants were asked how often they perform light, moderate, or vigorous activity for at least 10 minutes.

Healthy People 2020 Target

  • There is no Healthy People 2020 target for physical activity among cancer survivors, though it does include a national objective to increase the mental and physical health-related quality of life of cancer survivors.  However, it is reasonable to set this at the goal determined for the general population, which is to reduce the proportion of adults who engage in no leisure time physical activity to 32.6%.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 1997–2015.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

By Sex

Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of cancer survivors Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by sex, 1997-2015 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 38.3 (35.8 - 40.8)
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 38.2 (34.2 - 42.1)
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 39.6 (36.5 - 42.6)

By Age

Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age, 1997-2015
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2015)
Percent of cancer survivors Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age, 1997-2015 Ages 18-44Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 18-44 26.8 (18.8 - 34.9)
Ages 45-64Click to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 45-64 35.1 (30.9 - 39.4)
Ages 65 and olderClick to see the detailed trend graph for Ages 65 and older 42.0 (38.8 - 45.2)

Compared to Remaining U.S. Population

Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age : 2006-2015
Overview graph Age Group Cancer Survivor Remaining U.S. Population
Percent of population Confidence Interval Percent of population Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older reporting no physical activity in their leisure time by age : 2006-2015 Ages 18-44 29.8 (27.0 - 32.7) 27.9 (27.3 - 28.6)
Ages 45-64 36.3 (34.8 - 37.8) 34.0 (33.4 - 34.7)
Ages 65 and older 46.1 (44.8 - 47.3) 46.2 (45.4 - 47.0)

Additional Information on Cancer Survivors and Physical Activity

For the public

Scientific reports

Statistics

Year Range

1997-2015

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2011-2015

Summary Tables

Survival, Smoking, Obesity, Physical Activity

Recent Summary Trend

Non-Significant Change

Desired Direction

Falling