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Prevention of Cancer in the Older Person

Balducci, Lodovico MDa,b


Cancer is the most common cause of death up to the age of 85 years and is also a major cause of disability. Screening asymptomatic patients for cancer is the most promising strategy to reduce cancer-related morbidity and mortality in the older population. Though the information related to older people is scanty, it is reasonable to recommend that the screening of older individuals be based on life expectancy, tolerance of screening, and tolerance of antineoplastic therapy. Some form of screening for breast cancer appears indicated for individuals with life expectancy of 5 and more years. If screening for prostate cancer is indicated at all, it should be limited to men with a life expectancy of at least 10 years. The value of screening asymptomatic individuals for lung and ovarian cancer is explored in ongoing clinical trials.

aInterdisciplinary Oncology Program, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida.

bAdult Oncology Program, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida.

Reprint requests: Lodovico Balducci, MD. E-mail:

Received on August 5, 2005; accepted for publication August 15, 2005.

No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.