What are the most common types of cancer among older people?

Age is the main risk factor for cancer, and two-thirds of cancers occur after the age of 65. What are the most common types? What are the warning signs? We take a look.

most common types cancer older people health
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most common types cancer older people health

Cancer can affect infants, children, adults and the elderly. But today in the UK, 2 out of 3 cancers occur in people aged over 75. The incidence of cancer therefore increases throughout life. According to figures from Cancer Research UK, there were 167,000 cancer deaths in people aged 65 and over in 2021, or 75.3% of all cancer deaths, including 37,305 in the over 85s.

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There were 22,998 cancers diagnosed in the UK in 2021 in total. There were 78,000 cancer deaths in women, and 89,200 in men.

What is the most common cancer in men and women over 65?

The most common type of cancer in men over the age of 65 is the same as in the general male population, namely prostate cancer. It very rarely occurs before the age of 50, and the median age at diagnosis is 69 (2016-19 data). 66% of cases are diagnosed in the over-65s. The second most common cancer among the elderly is lung cancer (22,278 new cases estimated in 2019), which is also the most deadly. Lastly, colorectal cancer (14,389 new cases estimated in 2019) is the third most common cancer. Colorectal cancer is very treatable when diagnosed early enough, hence the importance of early detection.

Epidemiological data show that the most common cancer in women over 65 is breast cancer (32,564 new cases in 2019), with a median age at diagnosis of 64. It is also the most deadly, with more than 8,000 deaths per year. The other most common cancers are the same as for men, but colorectal cancer (13,658 cases) comes ahead of lung cancer (8,645 cases). These three cancers account for 45% of cancer deaths in this age group.

Cancer in the elderly is often associated with other diseases

One of the particularities of cancer in the elderly is that it is often associated with other age-related pathologies: neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis. Diagnosis is often delayed in the elderly because of certain non-specific symptoms that may be wrongly attributed to age: fatigue, weight loss, joint pain, digestive problems.

This article has been translated from Femme Actuelle.

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Sources used:

Cancer Research UK: Age and cancer

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