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J Gerontol. 1991 Jul;46(4):S225-34.

Cancer mortality, aging, and patterns of comorbidity in the United States: 1968 to 1986.

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  • 1Duke University Center for Demographic Studies.


Cancer is often reported as contributing to the risk of noncancer causes of death. The age variation of these reports was studied using U.S. data on all causes of death listed on death certificates for 1968 to 1986. The occurrence of cancer as a nonunderlying cause of death increased with age and was higher for treatable and slowly growing tumor types. These patterns persisted even if the cancer manifested changes in occurrence. Nonunderlying occurrences were highest in the 85 to 94 age group and were correlated with cancer survival. This suggests increased importance of cancer as a cause of death and a comorbid condition among oldest-old persons. The high rate of occurrence as an associated cause of death suggests that if life expectancy increases due to declines in circulatory and other chronic disease mortality, cancer could become the preeminent cause of death in the United States.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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