Background: Age comparisons for incidence, histology, disease stage at initial diagnosis, and mortality of more than 20,000 ovarian cancer patients diagnosed between 1973-1987 are the focus of this descriptive epidemiologic study. This paper highlights key issues and concerns regarding ovarian cancer in women 65 years and older as a frame of reference for the proceedings of the working conference, "Perspectives on Ovarian Cancer in Older-Aged Women," co-sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, National Cancer Institute, and American Cancer Society held at the National Institutes of Health, November, 1991.
Methods: Data are from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. The SEER Program database represents approximately 9.6% of the U.S. population.
Results: Ovarian cancer affects women in the age group 65 years and older more frequently than younger women. More than 48% of all ovarian cancers occur in women in this age group. Age-adjusted rates increase as age advances, peaking at 54.0 per 100,000 in the age group 75-79 years. Time trends also indicate increases in age-specific incidence rates. This malignancy takes its toll in mortality in women 65 years and older with 64% of all deaths due to this neoplasm (in 1989). Moreover, older women are more likely to be initially diagnosed with advanced disease.
Conclusions: Important questions about ovarian cancer in older-aged women need urgent attention from the research community. New strategies for diagnostic leads have to be developed for older women.