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Growth in Cancer Diagnoses Among U.S. Elderly, Minorities

Conquest - Fall 2009

A recent M. D. Anderson study predicts dramatic growth in cancer diagnoses that will impact the current health care system over the next 20 years.

“In 2030, 70% of all cancer will be diagnosed in the elderly and 28% in minorities,” according to Ben Smith, M.D., senior author on the study and adjunct assistant professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Radiation Oncology.

“The number of older adults diagnosed with cancer will be the same as the total number of Americans diagnosed with cancer in 2010,” he says. “Also alarming is that a number of the types of cancers that are expected to increase, such as liver, stomach and pancreas, still have tremendously high mortality rates.”

The study is the first to determine such specific long-term cancer incidence projections. It predicts a 67% increase in the number of adults 65 years old or older diagnosed with cancer, from 1 million in 2010 to 1.6 million in 2030. In non-white individuals over the same 20-year span, the incidence is expected to increase by 100%, from 330,000 to 660,000.

Smith and his team accessed the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, updated in 2008 to project population growth through 2050, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) registry, the premier population-based cancer registry, representing 26% of the country’s population. Cancer incidence rates were calculated by multiplying the age, sex, race and origin-specific population projections by the age, sex, race and origin-specific cancer incidence rates.

“The fact that these two groups have been under-represented in clinical research participation, yet their incidence of cancer is growing so rapidly, reflects the need for therapeutic trials to be more inclusive and address issues that are particularly relevant to both populations,” Smith says.

“In addition, as we design clinical trials, we need to seek not only the treatment that will prolong survival, but also prolong survival at a reasonable cost to patients. These are two issues that oncologists need to be much more concerned about and attuned to.”

Reported in the June 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center