Prevalence of healthy behaviors among cancer survivors in the United States: How far have we come?

Hannah Arem, Scherezade K. Mama, Xuejing Duan, Julia H. Rowland, Keith M. Bellizzi, Diane K. Ehlers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: The 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States are at increased risk for comorbidities and recurrence. However, this risk may be attenuated by a healthy lifestyle. This study describes health behaviors by cancer history to inform behavior change priorities. Methods: We analyzed 2013–2017 data from the National Health Interview Survey. There were 164,692 adults, of whom 12,648 reported a cancer history. We calculated prevalence of smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, body mass index (BMI), and sleep duration by cancer history, age, and cancer site. We conducted logistic regression to determine odds of meeting lifestyle recommendations by cancer history. Results: Overall, those with a cancer history were less likely to report current smoking (14.1% vs. 16.8%) and moderate/heavy drinking (18.8% vs. 21.9%) than those without a cancer history. However, a lower percentage of cancer survivors met physical activity guidelines (14.2% vs. 21.1%) or reported a healthy BMI (31.6% vs. 34.7%) compared with those without a cancer history. Cancer survivors were more likely to report excessive sleep (6.8% vs. 3.6%). In adjusted logistic regression, survivors were more likely to meet recommendations on smoking, physical activity, and BMI but were less likely to meet alcohol recommendations; meeting sleep recommendations did not differ by cancer history. Conclusions: While cancer survivors had lower prevalence of smoking and moderate/heavy drinking, they also had lower prevalence of physical activity and healthy BMI, and reported longer sleep duration. Regression analyses suggested survivors only showed poorer behaviors for alcohol. Impact: Targeted health promotion interventions among cancer survivors are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1187
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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