Cancer survival statistics by age
This page presents cancer survival rates by age at diagnosis.
The reasons for the poorer survival in elderly patients require further investigation but include several factors such as less aggressive treatment for the elderly 1-3, and a smaller proportion of older patients being entered into clinical trials4-6, which are generally associated with higher survival rates.
For some cancers, younger patients develop more easily treatable cancers e.g. germ-cell ovarian cancer tends to occur in pre-menopausal women and is very chemo-sensitive7 and testicular cancer is easier to treat in younger men 8. Also, many studies show that older cancer patients are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage disease when survival rates are lower 9-10.
Two exceptions to the general pattern of a decrease in survival with increasing age at diagnosis are breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. For breast cancer the highest five-year relative survival rates are in women diagnosed in the age range 50-59. It has been suggested that survival rates for younger women diagnosed with breast cancer are lower because the types of breast cancer diagnosed in pre-menopausal women tend to be more aggressive 11-13.
Some of the improvement in breast cancer survival rates in women over 50 is due to the national screening programme. Screen-detected cancers tend to be diagnosed at an earlier stage when successful treatment is more likely (see breast screening section for more details).
For prostate cancer five-year relative survival is highest in men diagnosed in the age group 50-69. Prostate cancer is similar to breast cancer in that the disease is thought to be more aggressive in men diagnosed under 50 14-15. Also PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing is increasingly being offered to men in their 50s and 60s, bringing forward the date of diagnosis and increasing the length of time that men live with their diagnosis (see prostate screening section for more details).
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- Bultitude, M.F. and Fentiman, I.S. Breast cancer in older women. Int J Clin Pract, 2002. 56(8): p. 588-90.
- Fentiman, I.S., Are the elderly receiving appropriate treatment for cancer? Ann Oncol, 1996. 7(7): p. 657-8.
- Fentiman, I.S., et al., Cancer in the elderly: why so badly treated? Lancet, 1990. 335(8696): p. 1020-2.
- Wyld, L. and Reed, M.W. The need for targeted research into breast cancer in the elderly. Br J Surg, 2003. 90(4): p. 388-99.
- Bene, J. and R. Liston, Clinical trials should be designed to include elderly people. BMJ, 1998. 316(7148): p. 1905.
- Bugeja, G., A. Kumar, and A.K. Banerjee, Exclusion of elderly people from clinical research: a descriptive study of published reports. BMJ, 1997. 315(7115): p. 1059.
- dos Santos Silva, I. and A.J. Swerdlow, Ovarian germ cell malignancies in England: epidemiological parallels with testicular cancer. Br J Cancer, 1991. 63(5): p. 814-8.
- Spermon, J.R., J.A. Witjes, and L.A. Kiemeney, Difference in stage and morphology-adjusted survival between young and elderly patients with a testicular germ cell tumor. Urology, 2002. 60(5): p. 889-93.
- Kothari, A. and I.S. Fentiman, Diagnostic delays in breast cancer and impact on survival. Int J Clin Pract, 2003. 57(3): p. 200-3.
- Bergman, L., et al., The influence of age on treatment choice and survival of elderly breast cancer patients in south-eastern Netherlands: a population-based study. Eur J Cancer, 1992. 28A(8-9): p. 1475-80.
- Fisher, C.J., et al., Histopathology of breast cancer in relation to age. Br J Cancer, 1997. 75(4): p. 593-6.
- Mathew, A., B. Rajan, and M. Pandey, Do younger women with non-metastatic and non-inflammatory breast carcinoma have poor prognosis? World J Surg Oncol, 2004. 2(1): p. 2.
- Chia, K.S., et al., Do younger female breast cancer patients have a poorer prognosis? Results from a population-based survival analysis. Int J Cancer, 2004. 108(5): p. 761-765.
- Merrill, R.M. and J.S. Bird, Effect of young age on prostate cancer survival: a population-based assessment (United States). Cancer Causes Control, 2002. 13(5): p. 435-43.
- Gronberg, H., et al., Patient age as a prognostic factor in prostate cancer. J Urol, 1994. 152(3): p. 892-5.