Cancer is increasingly a disease of the aged, a segment of the population that is the fastest growing. Often, cancer adds on to the progressive deterioration of normal aging and to the impairment associated with the presence of multiple concomitant medical problems. Thus, the likelihood that cancer leads to disability is much greater among older patients than younger ones. In consideration of the dimension of the problem, and of the peculiarities of the elderly patient, it has recently been proposed that a new approach termed 'comprehensive geriatric assessment' (CGA) might allow a better management and more efficient care of elderly patients with cancer. The systematic introduction of CGA in clinical research and in daily practice can contribute to: identify cancer patients for whom we could expect the greatest benefit from treatment; assess their physiologic, functional and health-related quality of life; formulate appropriate treatment and management strategies; monitor clinical and functional outcomes; provide a more accurate evaluation of prognostic indicators.