Cancer patient survival in the elderly in Italy

Marina Vercelli, Alberto Quaglia, Claudia Casella, Lucia Mangone, Arduino Verdecchia, Riccardo Capocaccia, Roberta De Angelis, Fulvia Valente, Egidio Chessa, Milena Sant, Gemma Gatta, Andrea Micheli, Franco Berrino, Roberto Zanetti, Stefano Rosso, Corrado Magnani, Benedetto Terracini, Marina Vercelli, Claudia Casella, Stefano ParodiVincenzo De Lisi, Lidia Serventi, Alessandro Barchielli, Eva Buiatti, Daniela Balzi, Emanuele Crocetti, Fabio Falcini, Oriana Nann, Maurizio Ponz De Leon, Luca Roncucci, Massimo Federico, Lucia Mangone, Ettore Conti, Valerio Ramazzotti, Lorenzo Gafà, Maria La Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and background: Italy, like most western populations, is sharply aging and changing its age structure with a striking increase in the oldest segment of the elderly. Since age is related to an exponential growth of cancer incidence rates and to a worsening of prognosis, the progressive aging of the population will constitute, in the future, an issue increasingly more important for public health. The present study is the first effort to present and analyze survival rates in Italian elderly cancer patients in order to provide a starting point for the development of better clinical strategies addressed to the aged. Materials and methods: The presented data come from a large data set consisting of survival data relating to 25,798 men and 20,479 women, aged 65-84 years at diagnosis, collected by Italian cancer registries participating in the ITACARE project. Relative survival rates of patients have been calculated by sex, quinquennial age classes and the considered entire age class for overall malignant neoplasms and the 10 most frequent cancer sites in the elderly. Results: When all Italian data for all cancers in the 65-84 year age group were pooled, survival rates at 5 years from the diagnosis was 27% and 39% in men and women, respectively. As regards specific sites, survival rates below 50% were observed for lung, stomach and ovary cancer at 1 year from diagnosis. At 5 years from diagnosis, the rates were less than 50% for colon, prostate, cervix, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and melanoma (only in men). The best survival at 5 years from diagnosis (above 50%) was in women for melanoma and corpus uteri and breast cancer. For all cancers, the prognosis for women was better in each considered age group even though a dramatic decrease in survival with age was observed in both sexes. In general, a similar decline in survival with increasing age characterized all considered specific sites. However, at closer observation, the patterns of a decrease revealed some differences. The ratio between the survival rates of 55-64 vs 65-84 year age class indicated that the sites with the greatest advantage of survival for younger patients (ratio > 1.5) were ovary, lung and melanoma (only in men), whereas the least advantage was observed for colon, corpus uteri, breast and prostate. By calendar periods, excluding non-Hodgkin's lymphoma for women, an increase in survival was observed for all considered sites, improving an encouraging successful trend in diagnostic and therapeutic progresses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-496
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997


  • elderly patients
  • neoplasm
  • relative survival rates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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