Intended for healthcare professionals


Ageism in cancer care

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 28 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1614
  1. Mark Lawler, chair of translational cancer genomics1,
  2. Peter Selby, professor of cancer medicine2,
  3. Matti S Aapro, dean3,
  4. Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer4
  1. 1Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT9 7AE UK
  2. 2Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  3. 3Multidisciplinary Oncology Institute, Genolier, Switzerland
  4. 4NHS England, Medical Directorate NHS England, Leeds, UK
  1. mark.lawler{at}

We need to change our mindset

What has happened in the 15 years since the BMJ suggested inadequacies in the treatment of cancer in elderly people?1 Rather less than we might have hoped. The 2013 insight report of HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index highlights the burgeoning challenges that ageing populations present to healthcare systems in general and cancer care in particular.2 The Institute of Medicine’s recent report on cancer care emphasises the urgent need to deal with the problem of age as the global population undergoes a transformational change over the next 50 years.3

For example, the US Census Bureau predicts that the population of the United States aged 65 years or more will double at least, from around 40 million in 2009 to 89 million in 2050.4 Estimates for the United Kingdom suggest that 76% of cancers in men and 70% of cancers in women will occur in the over 65 age group by 2030.5 More people are over 65 years old in both China and India than in the whole of Europe, …

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