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What is the connection between cancer and age? Know types, prevention and treatment

By focusing on age-appropriate screenings and promoting healthy lifestyles, we can together work towards reducing the cancer burden in older adults.

Written By: Kristina Das @https://twitter.com/KristinaDas2 New Delhi Published on: June 13, 2024 19:00 IST
cancer and age
Image Source : FILE IMAGE Know what is the connection between age and cancer.

The incidence of cancer increases with age, and approximately 60% of cancer diagnoses occur in individuals aged 65 years or older. With the current improvements in health care, the corresponding increase in the average life span is matched with an increase in the incidence of cancer. Hence more and more elderly people are being diagnosed with cancer.

Biological Aging and Cancer

According to Dr G. Vamshi Krishna Reddy, Director-Oncology Services, Consultant Medical Oncologist & Hemato Oncologist, ageing is a natural process marked by gradual changes in the body's cells and tissues. Over time, cells accumulate genetic mutations due to various factors such as environmental exposures, lifestyle choices, and normal cellular processes. These mutations can disrupt the normal function of genes that regulate cell growth and division, potentially leading to cancer. The body's ability to repair DNA damage diminishes with age. This decline in repair mechanisms allows mutations to accumulate more readily, increasing the likelihood of malignant transformations. Additionally, the immune system, which plays a vital role in detecting and eliminating abnormal cells, becomes less effective with age. This immune senescence further contributes to the higher cancer risk in older adults.

However, cancers are also diagnosed in children and young adults due to inherited genetic mutations or environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Cancer Types and Age Correlation

Different types of cancer exhibit varying age-related patterns. For instance, cancers such as breast, prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer are more common in older adults. This underscores the strong correlation between ageing and cancer incidence. These trends also highlight the importance of age as a factor in cancer screening and prevention strategies.

Screening and Prevention

Recognising the link between age and cancer has led to age-specific screening recommendations. Mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests for prostate cancer are examples of screening methods that target older populations. Early detection through these screenings can significantly improve outcomes and survival rates.

Age affects the treatment of cancer

Multiple co-morbidities such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension and coronary artery disease are equally more common among the elderly and this makes the treatment in the elderly challenging. 

Thus, understanding the connection between age and cancer is essential for effective prevention and early detection strategies. As our population ages, addressing the unique challenges posed by ageing will become increasingly important in the fight against cancer. 

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