Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Chronic Opioid Use in Older Lung Cancer Survivors

By: Anna Nowogrodzki
Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lung cancer survivors aged 66 and older seem to be more likely to engage in chronic opioid use than matched non-cancer controls in years 1 to 5 after diagnosis, but the effect disappears by 6 years after diagnosis, according to a new study. The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology by Talya Salz, PhD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and colleagues.

“The trend of diminishing chronic opioid use over time since cancer diagnosis is reassuring, especially considering the risks older survivors face,” stated the investigators. “However, future analyses may reveal more risk for chronic opioid use among subpopulations receiving different treatments.”

The study included 11,859 lung cancer survivors and 34,945 matched non-cancer control subjects drawn from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry and Medicare. Cancer survivors were 66 years or older at diagnosis and did not engage in chronic opioid use in the year before diagnosis. Each survivor was matched with three non-cancer control subjects by age, sex, race, Charlson comorbidity index score (excluding cancer), and geographic region. Patients with cancer were not included if they were enrolled in end-of-life hospice care, when opioids are likely to be necessary for palliative reasons.

Each year from 1 to 6 years after diagnosis, the researchers compared cancer survivors and control subjects for chronic opioid use, defined as 90 or more continuous days of opioid use. Compared with controls, lung cancer survivors were more likely to engage in chronic opioid use in all of the first 5 years after diagnosis, but no more likely by 6 years after diagnosis. Because the study included patients only aged 66 years and older, the authors suggest further study in other groups of patients with cancer.

Disclosure: The study authors’ disclosure information may be found at

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