Background: Cancer and its treatments can impair many aspects of cognitive functioning, especially memory. Few epidemiological studies, however, have examined the prevalence of memory impairment in cancer patients and survivors. We determined the prevalence of memory problems in cancer and non-cancer populations.

Methods: We analyzed data from a stratified, multistage probability sample of the civilian, noninstitutionalized United States population drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants answered yes or no to the question, “Are you limited in any way because of difficulty remembering or because you experience periods of confusion?” We adjusted our logit model for age, sex, race-ethnicity, education, poverty, and general health.

Results: The sample included 9,819 individuals (4,862 men; 4,957 women) age 40 years and older from diverse educational and racial-ethnic backgrounds (blacks [1,938], whites [5,552], Hispanics [1,998] and other race/multi-racial [331]). Of the total sample, 1,305 had cancer and 8,514 had not. Memory problems were reported more often by participants who had cancer (14%) than by those who did not (8%). Having had cancer was independently associated with memory impairment (odds ratio = 1.5[95% CI = 1.1 to 1.9]). Other predictors of memory impairment included older age, sex, race-ethnicity, lower education, higher poverty, and poor general health (P < 0.01). Overall, participants with cancer had a 40% greater likelihood of having memory problems that interfered with daily functioning. Conclusions: Cancer history is an independent predictor of memory impairment. Strategies to assess and control this memory impairment for cancer patients and survivors are needed.

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(10 Suppl):A61.