Adults who have undergone successful cancer treatment years or decades previously become fatigued more quickly than their peers who don’t have cancer histories, according to a new study in the journal Cancer from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The scientists examined data from a long-running study of normal aging, which included periodic treadmill tests of fatigability as well as 400-meter walks to test endurance. They found that, on average, participants with a history of cancer treatment reported more fatigue in the treadmill tests and were slower to complete the endurance walks, compared to participants without a cancer history.
“The main goal of cancer treatment has been survival, but studies like this suggest that we need also to examine the longer-term effects on health and quality of life,” says study senior author Dr. Jennifer A. Schrack, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of epidemiology.
Looming concerns over the long-term adverse effects of cancer treatments are largely the result of the short-term successes of those treatments, which have left a growing population of cancer survivors: 16 million in the U.S. as of 2016. But studies suggest that cancer treatments’ lingering impacts are clinically real and often resemble an accelerated aging process, including cognitive impairments, heart disease, secondary cancers, and — most commonly — fatigue.