How does general health and age affect cancer? | Cancer Research UK
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How does general health and age affect cancer?

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Age and cancer

Cancer is mainly an illness of older people, although it can develop at any age. It is rare in children and young adults.

  • Less than 1 in 100 cancers occur in children (aged 0 to 14 years) – the most common types are leukaemia, brain tumours and lymphoma
  • Less than 1 in 100 cancers occur in young people aged 15 to 24 – the most common types are lymphomas and cancers of the thyroid, cervix, bowel and ovary
  • Up to the age of 50 the risk of developing cancer is 1 in 35 for men and 1 in 20 for women
  • More than a third of cancers are diagnosed in people aged 75 or older

General health and cancer

Some health conditions can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. For example, people with inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have an increased risk of bowel cancer.

You can read about how conditions can affect the risk of cancer on our risks and causes pages in the cancer types section.

Having particular health conditions may affect the outlook for people with cancer. Cancer treatment can be hard. If you are in good health and reasonably fit when you are diagnosed, you will have greater reserves of energy to get you through.

Sometimes a health condition may make it too risky to have treatment such as a big operation or an intensive course of cancer treatment. Problems that may make it more difficult for you to have cancer treatments include heart or lung problems, or kidney problems.

If you have other health conditions it can help to talk to your doctor. You can explain any worries and fears. Together you will be able to work out the best treatment plan for you.

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Updated: 12 December 2014