Is there ageism in oncology?

D. Austin, Elizabeth M Russell* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To use routine data to explore age-related decision making in the hospital management of colorectal cancer.

 Design: Retrospective analysis of linked Scottish cancer registry and hospital discharge data for colorectal cancer 

Setting: All Scottish general hospitals.

 Participants: All patients on the Scottish colorectal cancer registry 1992-6 (n=15,299). 

Main Results: Histological verification was used to indicate the "gold standard" of investigation. Definitive surgery and chemotherapy were used as indicators of treatment received. After adjusting for demographic factors, tumour sub-site, co-morbidity and route of first admission, increasing age was associated with markedly decreased rates of histological verification, surgery and chemotherapy. It is still not possible to be sure whether there is ageism in the management of older patients with colorectal cancer However the rate of histological verification fell markedly with increasing age, making it questionable whether decisions to treat were based on best clinical practice at the time. Differences observed between this study and clinical trial data may represent the margin of ageism between everyday clinical practice and controlled conditions.

 Conclusions : The value of this analysis lies in the fact that the data come from routine clinical practice rather than special studies. The improved content of Scottish cancer register and the ability to link it to hospital care provides a useful baseline for monitoring adherence to clinical guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
Number of pages3
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date1 Feb 2003
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding: David Austin (but not the project) was supported by a student grant from PPP Healthcare.

Competing interests: none

Acknowledgements: We are extremely grateful to the Cancer Intelligence Unit at ISD for all their help. and especially Diane Stockton, without whom the several analyses would not have been possible. Gordon Prescott provided much needed statistical help. DA is grateful to PPP Healthcare for his student grant.


  • ageism
  • colorectal cancer
  • cancer registration
  • data linkage
  • clinical guidelines


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