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Cancer survival by age

Survival statistics by age at diagnosis for the most common cancers are presented here. 

Find out more about the coding and counting of this data.

More detailed information on survival for individual cancer sites is available in the types of cancer pages.

On this page:

By age at diagnosis

Five-year net survival is highest in the youngest adults for nearly all cancers, with survival generally decreasing with increasing age (Figure 3.1).1 This is likely to be due to better general health, more effective response to treatment and earlier diagnosis in younger people overall. For some cancers, such as ovarian cancer, a higher proportion of chemo-sensitive tumours in younger women also contribute to the pattern. The notable exceptions to this are breast, bowel and prostate cancers, for which five-year survival is highest in middle age. For breast cancer less favourable tumour characteristics may explain some of the lower survival in younger women, while breast screening is likely to increase survival in women of screening age (though some of the increase will be due to lead time bias). Similarly, screening for bowel cancer is also likely to have contributed to the higher survival in 60-69 year olds. The reasons for the disparity for prostate cancer are unclear, but variation in prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing by age may explain some of the difference, as well as differences in underlying tumour biology.

The lowest five-year survival is seen in 80-99 year-olds for all cancers, even though net survival allows for higher mortality from other causes in the older age groups. Poorer cancer outcomes in the elderly is the subject of much research and is likely to be influenced by many factors, including under-representation in clinical trials, inability to tolerate more aggressive treatments, underlying differences in tumours biology and presenting at later stages.2-6 For some cancers, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, specific treatment protocols for the elderly are being developed.

Figure 3.1: Five-Year Net Survival, Selected Cancers, By Age, England, 2007-2011

Ages 15-39

Surv_by_cancer_age15-39.swf

Download this chart XLS (51KB) PPT (131KB) PDF (269KB)


Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

Ages 40-49

Surv_by_cancer_age40-49.swf

Download this chart XLS (51KB) PPT (131KB) PDF (270KB)


Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

Ages 50-59

Surv_by_cancer_age50-59.swf

Download this chart XLS (50KB) PPT (130KB) PDF (305KB)

Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

Ages 60-69

Surv_by_cancer_age60-69.swf

Download this chart XLS (50KB) PPT (130KB) PDF (305KB)


Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

Ages 70-79

Surv_by_cancer_age70-79.swf

Download this chart XLS (50KB) PPT (129KB) PDF (304KB)


Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

Ages 80-99

Surv_by_cancer_age80-99.swf

Download this chart XLS (49KB) PPT (128KB) PDF (304KB)


Breast is for female only. Laryngeal is for male only.
Five-year survival is predicted using an excess hazard statistical model.

section reviewed 29/04/14
section updated 29/04/14

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References for cancer survival by age

  1. Office for National Statistics. Statistical Bulletin: Cancer survival in England: Patients diagnosed 2007-2011 and followed up to 2012. Newport: ONS; 2013.
  2. Bugeja G, Kumar A, Banerjee AK. Exclusion of elderly people from clinical research: a descriptive study of published reports. BMJ 1997;315:1059.
  3. Position paper by the UKCCCR elderly cancer patients in clinical trials working group. Br J Cancer 2000; 82:1-3.
  4. Bultitude MF, Fentiman IS. Breast cancer in older women. Int J Clin Pract 2002; 56:588-90.
  5. Engert A, Ballova V, Haverkamp H, et al. Hodgkin's lymphoma in elderly patients: a comprehensive retrospective analysis from the German Hodgkin's Study Group. J Clin Oncol 2005;23:5052-60.
  6. National Cancer Intelligence Network. Prostate Cancer Survival - NCIN Data Briefing. London: NCIN; 2010.
Updated: 29 April 2014