Author(s): Stanta G, Campagner L, Cavallieri F, Giarelli L
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Abstract Cancer in the oldest old is a novel problem, due to the recent burgeoning of the population aged 85 and older. This article addresses three critical questions related to cancer in the oldest old: Does the incidence of cancer increase after age 95? Is cancer a common cause of death for the oldest old? Is cancer accurately diagnosed in the oldest old? The authors analyzed a group of 507 autopsies of elderly, divided in three age groups, 75 90 years, 95 99, and over 99 (centenarians). The prevalence of cancer was 35\% among the younger persons and 20\% and 16\% respectively for those aged 95 99 and for the centenarians. A fourth of the patients in the younger group died from cancer but only 9.5\% of the people between 95 and 98 years and 7.1\% of the centenarians died from cancer. The cancer was the direct cause of death for 67\% of the younger persons and 41\% of patients belonging to the two oldest groups. The prevalence of metastases was 63\% for tumors occurring in persons aged 75 90, 32\% in persons aged 95 98, and 29\% in the centenarians. Cancer had been accurately diagnosed prior to death in 67.4\% of persons aged 75 90, in 38.5\% of those aged 95 99, and 29.4\% of the centenarian. Cancer as cause of death had been underestimated in 16\% of the cases in the younger persons and in almost 50\% of cases of the oldest old. This study suggests that the incidence of cancer and the importance of cancer as a cause of death may decline after age 95 and that the clinical diagnoses underestimate significantly both the incidence of cancer and the prevalence of cancer deaths in the oldest old.
This article was published in Clin Geriatr Med
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research