Malnutrition in childhood cancer patients has been associated with lower health-related quality of life (HRQOL). However, this association has never actually been tested. Therefore, we aimed to determine the association between nutritional status and HRQOL in children with cancer.
In 104 children, aged 2-18 years and diagnosed with hematological, solid, or brain malignancies, nutritional status and HRQOL were assessed at diagnosis and at 3, 6, and 12 months using the child- and parent-report versions of the PedsQL 4.0 Generic scale and the PedsQL 3.0 Cancer Module. Scores on both scales range from 0 to 100.
Undernourished children (body mass index (BMI) or fat-free mass <-2 standard deviation score (SDS)) reported significantly lower PedsQL scores compared with well-nourished children on the domains physical functioning (-13.3), social functioning (-7.0), cancer summary scale (-5.9), and nausea (-14.7). Overnourished children (BMI or fat mass > 2 SDS) reported lower scores on emotional (-8.0) and cognitive functioning (-9.2) and on the cancer summary scale (-6.6), whereas parent-report scores were lower on social functioning (-7.5). Weight loss (> 0.5 SDS) was associated with lower scores on physical functioning (-13.9 child-report and -10.7 parent-report), emotional (-7.4) and social functioning (-6.0) (child-report), pain (-11.6), and nausea (-7.8) (parent-report). Parents reported worse social functioning and more pain in children with weight gain (> 0.5 SDS) compared with children with stable weight status.
Undernutrition and weight loss were associated with worse physical and social functioning, whereas overnutrition and weight gain affected the emotional and social domains of HRQL. Interventions that improve nutritional status may contribute to enhanced health outcomes in children with cancer.