DOI: 10.1002/ijc.34671 ISSN:

Age at diagnosis for lung, colon, breast and prostate cancers: An international comparative study

Hana Zahed, Xiaoshuang Feng, Mahdi Sheikh, Freddie Bray, Jacques Ferlay, Ophira Ginsburg, Meredith S. Shiels, Hilary A. Robbins
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


Differences in the average age at cancer diagnosis are observed across countries. We therefore aimed to assess international variation in the median age at diagnosis of common cancers worldwide, after adjusting for differences in population age structure. We used IARC's Cancer Incidence in Five Continents (CI5) Volume XI database, comprising cancer diagnoses between 2008 and 2012 from population‐based cancer registries in 65 countries. We calculated crude median ages at diagnosis for lung, colon, breast and prostate cancers in each country, then adjusted for population age differences using indirect standardization. We showed that median ages at diagnosis changed by up to 10 years after standardization, typically increasing in low‐ and middle‐income countries (LMICs) and decreasing in high‐income countries (HICs), given relatively younger and older populations, respectively. After standardization, the range of ages at diagnosis was 12 years for lung cancer (median age 61‐Bulgaria vs 73‐Bahrain), 12 years for colon cancer (60‐the Islamic Republic of Iran vs 72‐Peru), 10 years for female breast cancer (49‐Algeria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Korea vs 59‐USA and others) and 10 years for prostate cancer (65‐USA, Lithuania vs 75‐Philippines). Compared to HICs, populations in LMICs were diagnosed with colon cancer at younger ages but with prostate cancer at older ages (both pLMICS‐vs‐HICs < 0.001). In countries with higher smoking prevalence, lung cancers were diagnosed at younger ages in both women and men (both pcorr < 0.001). Female breast cancer tended to be diagnosed at younger ages in East Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Our findings suggest that the differences in median ages at cancer diagnosis worldwide likely reflect population‐level variation in risk factors and cancer control measures, including screening.

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