Ovarian cancer: Age contrasts in incidence, histology, disease stage at diagnosis, and mortality


  • Rosemary Yancik Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
    • National Institute on Aging, 9000 Rockville Pike, Building 31, Room 5C05, Bethesda, MD 20892
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Background. Age comparisons for incidence, histology, disease stage at initial diagnosis, and mortality of more than 20,000 ovarian cancer patients diagnosed between 1973–1987 are the focus of this descriptive epidemiologic study. This paper highlights key issues and concerns regarding ovarian cancer in women 65 years and older as a frame of reference for the proceedings of the working conference, “Perspectives on Ovarian Cancer in Older-Aged Women,” co-sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, National Cancer Institute, and American Cancer Society held at the National Institutes of Health, November, 1991.

Methods. Data are from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. The SEER Program database represents approximately 9.6% of the U.S. population.

Results. Ovarian cancer affects women in the age group 65 years and older more frequently than younger women. More than 48% of all ovarian cancers occur in women in this age group. Age-adjusted rates increase as age advances, peaking at 54.0 per 100,000 in the age group 75–79 years. Time trends also indicate increases in age-specific incidence rates. This malignancy takes its toll in mortality in women 65 years and older with 64% of all deaths due to this neoplasm (in 1989). Moreover, older women are more likely to be initially diagnosed with advanced disease.

Conclusions. Important questions about ovarian cancer in older-aged women need urgent attention from the research community. New strategies for diagnostic leads have to be developed for older women.