Association of cancer diagnosis with disability status among older survivors of colorectal cancer: a population-based retrospective cohort study

Shiming Zhang, Lin Na Chou, Michael D. Swartz, Hemalkumar Mehta, James S. Goodwin, Yong Fang Kuo, Sharon Hermes Giordano, Carole A. Tucker, Karen M. Basen-Engquist, Elizabeth J. Lyons, Brian Downer, Susan K. Peterson, Tru Cao, Maria Swartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Older cancer survivors likely experience physical function limitations due to cancer and its treatments, leading to disability and early mortality. Existing studies have focused on factors associated with surgical complications and mortality risk rather than factors associated with the development of poor disability status (DS), a proxy measure of poor performance status, in cancer survivors. We aimed to identify factors associated with the development of poor DS among older survivors of colorectal cancer (CRC) and compare poor DS rates to an age-sex-matched, non-cancer cohort. Methods: This retrospective cohort study utilized administrative data from the Texas Cancer Registry Medicare-linked database. The study cohort consisted of 13,229 survivors of CRC diagnosed between 2005 and 2013 and an age-sex-matched, non-cancer cohort of 13,225 beneficiaries. The primary outcome was poor DS, determined by Davidoff’s method, using predictors from 12 months of Medicare claims after cancer diagnosis. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify risk factors associated with the development of poor DS. Results: Among the survivors of CRC, 97% were 65 years or older. After a 9-year follow-up, 54% of survivors of CRC developed poor DS. Significant factors associated with future poor DS included: age at diagnosis (hazard ratio [HR] = 3.50 for >80 years old), female sex (HR = 1.50), race/ethnicity (HR = 1.34 for Hispanic and 1.21 for Black), stage at diagnosis (HR = 2.26 for distant metastasis), comorbidity index (HR = 2.18 for >1), and radiation therapy (HR = 1.21). Having cancer (HR = 1.07) was significantly associated with developing poor DS in the pooled cohorts; age and race/ethnicity were also significant factors. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a CRC diagnosis is independently associated with a small increase in the risk of developing poor DS after accounting for other known factors. The study identified risk factors for developing poor DS in CRC survivors, including Hispanic and Black race/ethnicity, age, sex, histologic stage, and comorbidities. These findings underscore the importance of consistent physical function assessments, particularly among subsets of older survivors of CRC who are at higher risk of disability, to prevent developing poor DS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1283252
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - 2024


  • aged
  • cancer survivors
  • colorectal neoplasms
  • mobility limitations
  • risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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