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Cancer. 2008 Dec 15;113(12 Suppl):3484-92. doi: 10.1002/cncr.23945.

Primary prevention, aging, and cancer: overview and future perspectives.

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  • 1Psychosocial and Behavioral Medicine Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19111, USA.


Cancer-specific primary prevention efforts for the geriatric population are not understood well and currently are underused despite the rapidly growing elderly population. It has been established that lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, dietary changes, and increasing physical activity, decrease the incidence of cancer in younger populations. However, a multitude of conceptual, methodological, and dissemination challenges arise when the objective is to apply primary prevention of cancer to the elderly. For this article, the state of the science was reviewed to reveal barriers in the uptake of cancer-specific primary prevention practices, including the lack of data for the applicability of clinical research findings to older populations. Under-representation of older adults in behavioral trials and research programs is hindering progress in understanding the physical health and lifestyle choices of older individuals. Efforts directed toward prevention in terms of promoting health behaviors may be not only clinically advantageous but also cost-effective. In addition, models for translating research findings on primary prevention from younger individuals to the elderly population needs to be addressed. Practitioners need to gain a better understanding of the opportunities for cancer-specific primary prevention, because such an understanding could enhance the management of chronic disease.

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