The association between recently diagnosed cancer and incidence of falling in older adults: an exploratory study

Daniel Tough, Alan Batterham, Kirsti Loughran, Jonathan Robinson, John Dixon, Cormac Ryan, Shaun Wellburn, Samantha Harrison

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More than one in three older adults (≥65 years) fall within a two-year period. Over one third of cancer diagnoses are among people aged ≥75 years. Falls research in the UK cancer population is limited and contradictory. The aim of this study was to explore the association between a cancer diagnosis and incidence of falls in older adults in England.

Data were extracted from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (an ongoing panel study) collected between 2002 and 2014, consisting of a representative cohort of older adults living in England. Baseline data were collected within two-years of a cancer diagnosis. Falls data were extracted from the subsequent two-year period. The unexposed group included those with no chronic conditions. The fully adjusted logistic regression analysis model included age, sex, wealth, and education level as covariates. We defined odds ratios between 0.67 and 1.5 as the region of practical equivalence.

A total of 139 people had a type of cancer (exposed group) (Breast=18.7%, Colon, Rectum or Bowel=14.4%, Melanoma or Skin=7.2%, Lung=4.3%, Somewhere else=51.8%) (70.6±7.1 years; 58.3% male) with 3,899 in the unexposed group (69.5±7.3 years; 54.6% male). The fully-adjusted odds ratio was 1.21 (95% CI: 0.81 to 1.82; P=0.348). The probability of falling among the exposed group was 22.7% versus 19.5% for the unexposed group.

The cancer and control groups were not statistically equivalent for falls incidence, and a meaningful positive association between cancer and falls cannot be ruled out. Further research is required to elucidate this relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
JournalPhysiotherapy Practice and Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Sept 2021


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