As a result of an increasing life expectancy, the incidence of cancer cases diagnosed in the older population is rising. Indeed, cancer incidence is 11-fold higher in persons over the age of 65 than in younger ones. Despite this high incidence of cancer in older patients, solid data regarding the most appropriate approach and best treatment for older cancer patients are still lacking, mostly due to under-representation of these patients in prospective clinical trials. The clinical behaviour of common malignant diseases, e.g. breast, ovarian and lung cancers, lymphomas and acute leukaemias, may be different in older patients because of intrinsic variation of the neoplastic cells and the ability of the tumour host to support neoplastic growth. The decision to treat or not these patients should be based on patients' functional age rather than the chronological age. Assessment of patients' functional age includes the evaluation of health, functional status, nutrition, cognition and the psychosocial and economic context. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the influence of age on cancer presentation and cancer management in older cancer patients and to provide suggestions on clinical trial development and methodology in this population.
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