Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Impact of age and comorbidities on health-related quality of life for patients with prostate cancer: evaluation before a curative treatment

Michael Pinkawa1*, Karin Fischedick1, Bernd Gagel1, Marc D Piroth1, Branka Asadpour1, Jens Klotz1, Holger Borchers2, Gerhard Jakse2 and Michael J Eble1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52057 Aachen, Germany

2 Department of Urology, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52057 Aachen, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:296  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-296

Published: 24 August 2009



Interpretation of comparative health-related quality of life (HRQOL) studies following different prostate cancer treatments is often difficult due to differing patient ages. Furthermore, age-related changes can hardly be discriminated from therapy-related changes. The evaluation of age-and comorbidity-related changes was in focus of this study.


HRQOL of 528 prostate cancer patients was analysed using a validated questionnaire (Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite) before a curative treatment. Patients were divided into age groups ≤65, 66-70, 71-75 and >75 years. The impact of specific comorbidities and the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) were evaluated. The questionnaire comprises 50 items concerning the urinary, bowel, sexual and hormonal domains for function and bother. For assessment of sexual and hormonal domains, only patients without prior hormonal treatment were included (n = 336).


Urinary incontinence was observed increasingly with higher age (mean function scores of 92/88/85/87 for patients ≤65, 66-70, 71-75 and >75 years) - complete urinary control in 78%/72%/64%/58% (p < 0.01). Sexual function scores decreased particularly (48/43/35/30), with erections sufficient for intercourse in 68%/50%/36%/32% (p < 0.01) - a decrease of more than a third comparing patients ≤65 vs. 66-70 (36%) and 66-70 vs. 71-75 years (39%). The percentage of patients with comorbidities was lowest in the youngest group (48% vs. 66%/68%/63% for ages 66-70/71-75/>75 years; p < 0.05). A multivariate analysis revealed an independent influence of both age and comorbidities on urinary incontinence, specifically diabetes on urinary bother, and both age and diabetes on sexual function/bother. Rectal domain scores were not significantly influenced by age or comorbidities. A CCI>5 particularly predisposed for lower urinary and sexual HRQOL scores.


Urinary continence and sexual function are the crucial HRQOL domains with age-related and independently comorbidity-related decreasing scores. The results need to be considered for the interpretation of comparative studies or longitudinal changes after a curative treatment.