Cancer and aging. An evolving panorama

Hematol Oncol Clin North Am. 2000 Feb;14(1):1-16. doi: 10.1016/s0889-8588(05)70274-4.


This article illustrates how the nosology of cancer evolves with the patient's age. If the current trends are maintained, 70% of all neoplasms will occur in persons aged 65 years and over by the year 2020, leading to increased cancer-related morbidity among older persons. Cancer control in the older person involves chemoprevention, early diagnosis, and timely and effective treatment that entails both antineoplastic therapy and symptom management. These interventions must be individualized based on a multidimensional assessment that can predict life expectancy and treatment complications and that may evaluate the quality of life of the older person. This article suggests a number of interventions that may improve cancer control in the aged. Public education is needed to illustrate the benefits of health maintenance and early detection of cancer even among older individuals, to create realistic expectations, and to heighten awareness of early symptoms and signs of cancer. Professional education is needed to train students and practitioners in the evaluation and management of the older person. Of special interest is the current initiative of the Hartford Foundation offering combined fellowships in oncology and geriatrics and incorporating principles of geriatric medicine in medical specialty training. Prudent pharmacologic principles must be followed in managing older persons with cytotoxic chemotherapy. These principles include adjusting the dose according to the patient's renal function, using epoietin to maintain hemoglobin levels of 12 g/dL or more, and using hemopoietic growth factors in persons aged 70 years and older receiving cytotoxic chemotherapy of moderate toxicity (e.g., CHOP). To assure uniformity of data, a cooperative oncology group should formulate a geriatric package outlining a common plan for evaluating function and comorbidity. This article also suggests several important areas of research items: Molecular interactions of age and cancer Host-tumor interactions in the older tumor host Chemoprevention of cancer and aging Laboratory evaluation of aging Development of shorter forms of geriatric assessment Management of the frail cancer patients Clinical trials of tumor-specific issues.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / pathology*