A comparison of frailty measures in population-based data for patients with colorectal cancer

Rebecca Birch*, John Taylor, Tameera Rahman, Riccardo Audisio, Sophie Pilleron, Philip Quirke, Simon Howell, Amy Downing, Eva Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Numerous studies have revealed age-related inequalities in colorectal cancer care. Increasing levels of frailty in an ageing population may be contributing to this, but quantifying frailty in population-based studies is challenging. Objective: To assess the feasibility, validity and reliability of the Hospital Frailty Risk Score (HFRS), the Secondary Care Administrative Records Frailty (SCARF) index and the frailty syndromes (FS) measures in a national colorectal cancer cohort. Design: Retrospective population-based study using 136,008 patients with colorectal cancer treated within the English National Health Service. Methods: Each measure was generated in the dataset to assess their feasibility. The diagnostic codes used in each measure were compared with those in the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI). Validity was assessed using the prevalence of frailty and relationship with 1-year survival. The Brier score and the c-statistic were used to assess performance and discriminative ability of models with included each measure. Results: All measures demonstrated feasibility, validity and reliability. Diagnostic codes used in SCARF and CCI have considerable overlap. Prevalence of frailty determined by each differed; SCARF allocating 55.4% of the population to the lowest risk group compared with 85.1% (HFRS) and 81.2% (FS). HFRS and FS demonstrated the greatest difference in 1-year overall survival between those with the lowest and highest measured levels of frailty. Differences in model performance were marginal. Conclusions: HFRS, SCARF and FS all have value in quantifying frailty in routine administrative health care datasets. The most suitable measure will depend on the context and requirements of each individual epidemiological study.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberafae105
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024


  • colorectal cancer
  • frailty
  • inequalities
  • inequities
  • older people
  • survival


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