Purpose: Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among older cancer survivors can be impaired by factors such as treatment, comorbidities, and social challenges. These HRQOL impairments may be especially pronounced in rural areas, where older adults have higher cancer burden and more comorbidities and risk factors for poor health. This study aimed to assess rural–urban differences in HRQOL for older cancer survivors and controls. Methods: Data came from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare Health Outcomes Survey (SEER-MHOS), which links cancer incidence from 18 U.S. population-based cancer registries to survey data for Medicare Advantage Organization enrollees (1998–2014). HRQOL measures were 8 standardized subscales and 2 global summary measures. We matched (2:1) controls to breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer survivors, creating an analytic dataset of 271,640 participants (ages 65+). HRQOL measures were analyzed with linear regression models including multiplicative interaction terms (rurality by cancer status), controlling for sociodemographics, cohort, and multimorbidities. Results: HRQOL scores were higher in urban than rural areas (e.g., global physical component summary score for breast cancer survivors: urban mean = 38.7, standard error [SE] = 0.08; rural mean = 37.9, SE = 0.32; p < 0.05), and were generally lower among cancer survivors compared to controls. Rural cancer survivors had particularly poor vitality (colorectal: p = 0.05), social functioning (lung: p = 0.05), role limitation-physical (prostate: p < 0.01), role limitation-emotional (prostate: p < 0.01), and global mental component summary (prostate: p = 0.02). Conclusion: Supportive interventions are needed to increase physical, social, and emotional HRQOL among older cancer survivors in rural areas. These interventions could target cancer-related stigma (particularly for lung and prostate cancers) and/or access to screening, treatment, and ancillary healthcare resources.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health