The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cancer research breaks age myth

Nice, Oct. 21 (AP): Many elderly patients can tolerate powerful cancer drugs better than doctors think, according to a new research.

Half of all cancers are diagnosed after the age of 65 and experts predict that 30 years from now, elderly people will comprise 70 per cent of cancer diagnoses, the study said.

However, there is no clear treatment strategy for cancer in the elderly. Most cancer drug trials exclude patients over 70 and doctors are subsequently reluctant to give medication to older patients because they fear the side effects may be too harsh for them.

Studies presented yesterday at a meeting of the European Society of Medical Oncology indicate that, at least in some cancers, elderly patients can be treated more aggressively.

“Elderly patients must be offered the same treatment options as younger patients, even if treatment of the elderly is less cost-effective,” said Dr Silvio Monfardini, president of the International Society of Geriatric Oncology who was not connected with any of the studies. “It is wrong and unethical to discriminate against a patient because of their age.”

“The whole problem of cancer in the elderly cannot be (avoided) because of the progressively ageing population,” he said.

Experts agreed that researchers must begin to include elderly patients in clinical trials, given that with the population in many countries continuing to age, people over 70 will make up an increasing proportion of cancer patients.

People are considered elderly, in a medical context, once they are older than 65, but for cancer, patients are not considered elderly until they are 70.

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