Food insecurity among adult cancer survivors in the United States

  • M. L. TregoEmail author
  • Z. M. Baba
  • K. I. DiSantis
  • M. L. Longacre



The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of food insecurity among US adults with a history of a cancer diagnosis and to understand if socio-demographic factors and cancer characteristics (i.e., time since diagnosis, cancer type) relate to food insecurity.


This was a secondary analysis of cancer survivors drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) 2011–2014. Weighted analyses included descriptive, bivariate, and multinomial logistic regression.


Of the cancer survivors identified in the sample (n = 1,022), 8.36% were food insecure. In bivariate analysis, several factors were significantly associated with food insecurity among cancer survivors, including female gender, younger age, non-Hispanic black or Hispanic race/ethnicity, lower income, no insurance coverage, lower education, single relationship status, having children at home, having poor health or diet, and cancer characteristics (i.e., non-melanoma skin cancer, female reproductive cancer). In logistic regression analyses, odds of food insecurity decreased with older age and higher income and increased with poor health, although cancer type was no longer significant.


Though a low proportion of cancer survivors indicated being food insecure, food insecurity was evident, and this study identified socio-demographic factors related to food insecurity which may be important to consider in clinical and community health settings serving cancer survivors.

Implications for Cancer Survivors

Nutrition is essential throughout the cancer care trajectory, including survivorship. Clinicians should consider processes for screening patients, especially younger and lower income patients, for food insecurity through all stages of treatment and particularly as part of survivorship planning. Furthermore, availability and referral to community partners for nutrition and food support is essential.


Cancer survivorship Food security NHANES Nutrition Economic burden 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public HealthArcadia UniversityGlensideUSA
  2. 2.Department of HealthWest Chester UniversityWest ChesterUSA

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