Cancer prevalence in the elderly

Marina Vercelli, Alberto Quaglia, Stefano Parodi, Paolo Crosignani, A. Micheli, G. Gatta, M. Sant, A. Giorgi Rossi, S. Francisci, S. Saltarelli, L. Dell'Era, N. Gasparre, A. Verdecchia, R. Capocaccia, A. Mariotto, A. Dally, I. Corazziari, P. Crosignani, G. Tagliabue, F. FalciniC. Milandri, R. Vattiato, E. Conti, V. Ramazzotti, M. Caperle, R. Zanetti, S. Rosso, S. Patriarca, M. Federico, L. Mangone, M. Santacroce, A. Barchielli, D. Balzi, E. Crocetti, E. Paci, V. De Lisi, L. Serventi, A. Barili, M. Vercelli, C. Casella, S. Parodi, M. Ponz De Leon, L. Roncucci, P. Benatti, L. Gafà, R. Tumino, E. La Rosa, S. Guzzinati, L. Simonato, E. Bovo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and background: To describe the cancer prevalence in elderly Italian people and analyze the differences, if any, with the prevalence among younger subjects. Methods and study design: The cancer prevalence among elderly patients (65 years and over), the three age classes encompassing elderly age (65-74 years, 75-84 years, 85 years and over) and younger patients (0-64 years) was computed using the PREVAL method on the basis of the incident cases over the period 1976-1992 followed up to 31 December 1992 (prevalence reference date). Data were collected by 11 Italian cancer registries. Results: The observed prevalence figures for all cancers (except skin epitheliomas), both sexes combined and considering the whole elderly group, were 1,090 and 3,601 cases per 100,000 one and five years since diagnosis, respectively; the prevalence increased up to the 75-84 age group and showed a slight decrease after age 85. With regard to specific cancer sites, in men bladder and prostate had the highest prevalence 5 years from diagnosis (more than 800 cases per 100,000), followed by colon and lung (about 500 cases per 100,000) stomach and rectum (about 300 cases per 100,000); in women breast cancer ranked first (more than 1,000 cases per 100,000), followed by colon (about 350 cases per 100,000), corpus uteri, stomach and rectum cancers (between 150 and 200 cases per 100,000). For all malignancies and the two sexes combined the prevalence figures were about six times higher in the older than in the younger age group. Conclusions: These figures confirm the important role of aging in determining the increase in cancer prevalence. The resulting prevalence figures clearly indicate the cancer burden placed on health care services; moreover, the figures will probably increase in the next decades due to a possible improvement in survival and to the dramatic aging of the population, assuming a stable trend for incidence rates. This picture will represent a major challenge for politicians and those dealing with health care planning and social policies in general, especially in the light of the reduction of the available financial resources and the specific features of medical and social needs in the elderly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-399
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1999


  • Age distribution
  • Aging
  • Cancer registries
  • Elderly
  • Elderly/young ratios
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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