The impact of ageism in the care of older adults with cancer

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2023 Mar 1;17(1):8-14. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0000000000000629. Epub 2023 Jan 20.


Purpose of review: This review summarizes recent research on the impact of ageism in older adults with cancer and how society can best address the issue. Despite older individuals representing the vast majority of those with cancer, with a dramatic increase in incidence anticipated in the coming decades, ageism remains an under-recognized and extremely detrimental phenomenon in cancer care.

Recent findings: We examine the associations between ageism and health, and highlight the consequences of higher mortality, a deterioration in mental and physical health, worse functional status and increased comorbidity burden. We then discuss the oncologic-specific impacts of ageism, including lower rates of cancer screening, decreased histological confirmation of cancer, decreased surgical intervention and systemic therapy prescription and poorer survivorship experience. To conclude, we illustrate the opportunities within oncologic systems of care to engage with, and dismantle, the damaging effects of ageism, namely policy and legislation, education and intergenerational contact.

Summary: Despite recognition of the numerous negative sequelae of ageism, there remains a paucity of literature regarding the intersection between ageism and cancer. Our piece summarizes the key developments in this field, but further evaluation is desperately required.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Ageism*
  • Aging
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy