Food Insecurity and Forgone Medical Care Among Cancer Survivors.

Financial hardship is increasingly understood as a negative consequence of cancer and its treatment. As patients with cancer face financial challenges, they may be forced to make a trade-off between food and medical care. We characterized food insecurity and its relationship to treatment adherence in a population-based sample of cancer survivors.

Individuals 21 to 64 years old, diagnosed between 2008 and 2016 with stage I-III breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer were identified from the New Mexico Tumor Registry and invited to complete a survey, recalling their financial experience in the year before and the year after cancer diagnosis. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95%CIs.

Among 394 cancer survivors, 229 (58%) were food secure in both the year before and the year after cancer diagnosis (persistently food secure), 38 (10%) were food secure in the year before and food insecure in the year after diagnosis (newly food insecure), and 101 (26%) were food insecure at both times (persistently food insecure). Newly food-insecure (OR, 2.82; 95% CI, 1.02 to 7.79) and persistently food-insecure (OR, 3.04; 95% CI,1.36 to 6.77) cancer survivors were considerably more likely to forgo, delay, or make changes to prescription medication than persistently food-secure survivors. In addition, compared with persistently food-secure cancer survivors, newly food-insecure (OR, 9.23; 95% CI, 2.90 to 29.3), and persistently food-insecure (OR, 9.93; 95% CI, 3.53 to 27.9) cancer survivors were substantially more likely to forgo, delay, or make changes to treatment other than prescription medication.

New and persistent food insecurity are negatively associated with treatment adherence. Efforts to screen for and address food insecurity among individuals undergoing cancer treatment should be investigated as a strategy to reduce socioeconomic disparities in cancer outcomes.

JCO oncology practice. 2020 May 08 [Epub ahead of print]

Jean A McDougall, Jessica Anderson, Shoshana Adler Jaffe, Dolores D Guest, Andrew L Sussman, Angela L W Meisner, Charles L Wiggins, Elizabeth Yakes Jimenez, V Shane Pankratz

University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center, Albuquerque, NM., Department of Internal Medicine, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.