This study aimed to compare health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among cancer survivors and controls in the Danish population, with special attention given to the impact of low educational attainment. Comparisons were made at population level and for subgroups stratified by education. Furthermore, comparisons were made for all cancer diagnoses combined and for the 14 most prevalent cancer sites and 'other cancer sites'. Finally, the importance of time since initial diagnosis was examined.
HRQOL was measured using the physical component score (PCS) and mental component score (MCS) of the 12-item Short-Form Health Survey version 2 in a population-based survey. By linking data with the Danish Cancer Registry, 11,166 cancer survivors and 151,117 individuals with no history of cancer were identified.
HRQOL was reduced in cancer survivors for all cancers combined and most cancer sites. Differences were found at population level and stratified by educational attainment. PCS was reduced to a similar extent in the three educational groups, whereas MCS was reduced slightly more in the low than in the high educational attainment group. HRQOL increased with time since initial diagnosis during the first years.
Cancer survivors had lower HRQOL than controls, and HRQOL was lower in the low than in the high educational attainment group. However, low educational attainment did not widen the gap in HRQOL following a cancer diagnosis. Despite this, the combined effect of low educational attainment and a cancer diagnosis markedly reduced HRQOL in some cancer survivors. The study identified groups of cancer survivors with low HRQOL who may have unmet rehabilitation needs.