Cancer and Aging

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Older adults are much more likely to receive a diagnosis of cancer in comparison to younger adults, which will become more prevalent as the population continues to age. There is mounting evidence suggesting that the biological process of aging is intertwined and linked to the development of cancer. Research suggests that both aging and cancer share common pathways but are expressed differently depending on which genetic traits are activated and suppressed. It is theorized that the biological process of aging occurs when mutations and damage to the genome are accumulated over an individual’s lifetime, which subsequently causes cellular senescence and increases the risk of cancer. There are many ethical considerations that need to be made when deciding upon whether an older adult should undergo cancer screening as both benefits and risks ensue. Cancer interventions are oftentimes not recommended for older adults due to the many possible adverse events that could occur. However, much of the research to date indicates that older adults with cancer benefit greatly from cancer treatments and in many cases fair just as well as younger adults. Future studies should determine valid and reliable biomarkers of cancer which could help in determining which older adults would benefit the most from cancer treatments as well as determining those who are at most risk for complications. In addition, research should focus on the implications that comorbid conditions and diseases have on the efficacy of various treatment options for older adults with cancer.