What's new in the childhood cancer registry?

Physical Activity in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Research published this week by the Swiss Childhood Cancer Registry Group examines physical activity behaviours in childhood cancer survivors and a healthy norm population

Healthy lifestyle including sufficient physical activity may mitigate or prevent adverse long-term effects of childhood cancer. We therefore described daily physical activities and sports in childhood cancer survivors and controls, and assessed determinants of both activity patterns.

For this analysis we used the answers from the Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study questionnaire and the Swiss Health Survey 2007. We could include 1058 survivors aged >18 years at the time of survey and 5593 controls of the same age range from the normal population.


Results differed between the two types of activities: while survivors reported more daily activities, they performed fewer sports than controls. Risk factors for inactivity did also differ between daily activities and sports. Overall, demographic and cultural factors such as gender, age, education, BMI, smoking status and family status were the most important determinants of physical activity in both populations. Adjusting for socio-demographic and cultural factors none of the clinical factors (type of diagnosis, age at diagnosis, treatments or self-reported late effects) were significantly associated with daily activities. However, there was a trend for lower activity levels in survivors of neuroblastomas, soft tissue sarcomas, and germ cell tumors. The same was true for clinical predictors of sporting activities: while there was no statistically significant association with clinical factors, there was a trend for reporting less sports in survivors of bone tumors, germ cell, CNS tumors, neuroblastomas, and retinoblastomas.

 

Physical activity is a powerful tool to prevent chronic diseases and increases quality of life in healthy people. Due to the vulnerability of cancer survivors and their high risk for chronic disease after treatment, a healthy lifestyle including regular physical activity is particularly important for this population. Although we found that childhood cancer survivors were at least as active as their healthy peers, 48% did not reach recommended daily activity levels, 37% reported not doing any sports, and 21% reached neither recommendations for daily activities nor engaged in sports. These survivors are at a higher risk for developing late effects such as low bone mineral density, obesity, fatigue, cardiovascular diseases, low health related quality of life, or neurocognitive decline. As health behaviors tend to cluster together, inactive survivors might also be more prone to engage in other health compromising behaviors such as smoking, drinking or unhealthy diet. This underlines the necessity to promote physical activity in childhood cancer survivors already early in follow-up. In addition, because risk factors for inactivity are essentially similar as in peers, survivors will benefit from all strategies that promote sports and daily physical activity in the general population.

© ISPM - University of Bern 2016