Preventive health services and lifestyle practices in cancer survivors: A population health investigation

Patricia A. Findley, Usha Sambamoorthi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Introduction: Long term health in cancer survivors require both preventive health services and certain health behavior practices in order to prevent the major chronic diseases that can occur for any adult in the general population. Despite this we currently do not know the pattern of clinical preventive services and health behaviors of cancer survivors in the US population. The present study examines the patterns of preventive health activities in two domains: clinical preventive services and healthy lifestyle practices in a heterogeneous population of cancer survivors. Methods: Longitudinal analyses of Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data, a nationally representative health survey, for the calendar years 2000 through 2004 were conducted. Cancer survivors were defined as individuals diagnosed with cancer in the baseline year and alive in the subsequent year. To address both provider based and behavioral health activities, two categories of care were included: clinical preventive services consisting of influenza immunization, routine physical examination, and a dental check up within the last year using the follow-up year data and healthy lifestyle practices including engaging in moderate/vigorous exercise three times per week, maintaining a body mass index (BMI) within normal range, and not currently smoking. Chi-square tests and Poisson regressions were performed to identify factors that were associated with these preventive health activities. Results: Unadjusted rates of preventive health activities were as follows: 78% had a routine physical check up, 66% visited the dentist at least annually, and 54% received an influenza immunization. Across healthy lifestyle practices, 80% did not smoke, 52% engaged in regular exercise, and 37% maintained their BMI within normal range. Only 31% received all three clinical preventive services and only 16.5% engaged in all three healthy lifestyle practices. Across both domains of preventive health activities, age, marital status, and education were positively associated with the number of services. Presence of diabetes and poorer mental health were associated with greater number of clinical preventive services and lower number of healthy lifestyle practices. Cancer survivors with fair/poor perception of their mental health had lower number of clinical preventive services and those with fair/poor perception of physical health engaged in lower number of healthy lifestyle practices. Demographic and health status factors impacted the two domains differentially. Discussion/Conclusions: The rates and predictors of preventive care varied by type of service/domain suggesting that individualization is needed in creating a comprehensive preventive service and lifestyle activity plan that accounts for the survivor's specific total care needs, including all comorbidities. However, it was also found that cancer survivors are less likely to engage in all types of preventive activities; a one-size-fit-all approach is not recommended for preventive health education and planning for this population. Implications for cancer survivors: Our study findings suggest the need to address the overall long term healthcare of cancer survivors by prioritizing and developing individualized preventive plans to optimize care that emphasize education, self care perceptions, and incorporate other comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-58
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Cancer survivors
  • Health promotion
  • MEPS
  • Population health


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