Vitamin D Insufficiency Increases Fall Risk in Older Patients With Cancer

A new study suggests some older cancer patients are at an increased risk of injury-causing falls.
Aging comes with a wide range of health challenges, including muscle loss and the risk of falls. When you add a cancer diagnosis to the mix, those challenges increase. However, there are ways that patients with cancer can reduce their risk.

In a recent study presented at the 2017 Cancer Survivorship Symposium, researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston examined the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and risk factors for falls in patients aged 65 or older undergoing active cancer care for gastrointestinal, urologic, breast, lung or gynecologic cancers.

They found that these patients were more likely to experience frailty, osteoporosis and vitamin D insufficiency, raising the possibility of injury-causing falls.

“Sixty percent of patients with cancer are over the age of 65, and that number is going to grow,” Beatrice J. Edwards, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P., associate professor geriatric medicine and author on the study, said in an interview with CURE. “These unique issues that they present have to be addressed in order to give them the best quality of life possible.”

The study was conducted by giving 305 patients, both men and women, a comprehensive geriatric assessment, including cognitive, functional, nutritional, physical and comorbidity assessment. Researchers also examined bone density and vitamin D.

Eighty percent of patients had low bone mass and osteoporosis; 53 percent experienced frailty; 48.8 percent had vitamin D insufficiency; 37 percent experienced mild cognitive impairment; and 33 percent had dementia.

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