To evaluate whether age over 70 years represents a prognostic factor in head and neck cancer, we reviewed all cases observed between 1981 and 1984. Four hundred and thirty-eight (438) patients were considered in relation to three age groups (<59, 60–69, and >70 years, defined as non-elderly, mid-elderly and elderly respectively).
The main parameters analyzed included histological diagnosis (no difference emerged among the three age groups); anatomical site (hypopharyngeal carcinoma was most frequent in non-elderly patients); TNM stage (an higher incidence of early stages was seen in the elderly); performance status (better in the nonelderly); previous illnesses (life-style related diseases were more frequent in the non-elderly); contraindications to surgery (more frequent in the elderly); surgical treatment (‘en bloc’ resections were more often employed in the non-elderly); post-operative complications and local control (no difference between the three groups); multiple primary malignancies (head and neck, oesophagus and lung were more frequent in non-elderly patients) and survival (no difference).
Although age affects several features of head and neck cancer patients, it does not appear from the present study to be an independent prognostic factor for local control and survival. With regard to survival, stage appeared to be the most important prognostic factor.