Cancer affects many people. While certain cancers do occur in specific age groups and sexes, cancer as a whole does not discriminate. This devastating disease affects men, women, children, and the elderly. Specific strategies are used to treat cancers in these demographic groups because of the inherent differences between each; children and the elderly tend to be more sensitive to treatment than the average adult1,2 .This is because the immune system tends to be either still developing, or decelerating due to age. Men and women may respond to various treatment methods differently. Disease prognosis and outcomes are also impacted by the group in which the patient falls.
Frequently considered to be one of the most devastating age groups affected by cancer, childhood cancers come in many different forms. Cancer is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 143; Over 11,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year across the country. Of these children, just over 1,300 receive a terminal prognosis. While cancer is rarer in childhood, it affects approximately 14 children out of every 100,000 children in the United States. This infographic created by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia outlines the potential impact childhood cancers can have on the young patients who experience them.
According to Cancer.org, the most common cancers experienced by children and young adults under the age of 18 are:
- Brain and other central nervous system tumors
- Wilms tumor
- Lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin)
- Bone cancer (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma)
Several foundations support pediatric oncology and research. Several of these foundations assist directly; others support indirectly, by supporting patients and their families. the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) is heavily involved with both research, and supporting patients directly. Four main research topics are focused on by the foundation:
- Stem Cell Transplantation
- Stem Cell Biology
- Molecular Oncology
- Molecular and Cellular Genetics
As of December 2013, the foundation was working closely with Drs. Mitchell Cairo, Laurence J.N. Cooper, Stuart E. Siegel, Leo Mascarenhas, and Theodore Moore. These talented researchers also help to organize the International Symposium on Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (link) each year.
The Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) serves as a resource to research projects and pediatric oncology professionals. They are involved in supporting families, patients, and medical professionals, as well as medical facilities across the country. The foundation focuses on the following topics:
- Brain tumor
- Genetic diseases
- Epidemiology (Causes)
- Surviving cancer
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and various cancer-specific foundations also help to support, fund, and research pediatric oncology topics. The Children’s Wish Foundation and the Make-a-Wish foundation also have an impact on childhood cancer patients; they serve to grant wishes to children, bringing joy and happiness to lives that can otherwise be quite difficult.
Cancer in the Elderly
Cancer is particularly devastating in the elderly. Geriatric oncology studies cancer and cancer treatments in individuals over the age of 65. As the prolific baby boomer population is now aging into their senior years, geriatric oncology has become an even more vital field. A study released in 20061 showed that nearly 60 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are diagnosed in elderly populations. When this statistic is combined with the fact that elderly citizenship is expected to double by 2050, an urgent need to research and develop new treatments for cancer in the elderly is revealed.
Supporting Foundations and Organizations
Geriatric oncology is supported by a number of cancer foundations. Unlike pediatric oncology, geriatric oncology is primarily supported by general or cancer-specific foundations.
- CancerCare.org provides support to elderly patients and the much-needed research in geriatric oncology strategies.
- Both Medicare and MedicAid may be used by some elderly cancer patients; these two governmental programs will provide funding for treatments, medications, and living expenses, although certain requirements must be met.
- Because melanoma occurs in higher rates within elderly populations, The Skincare Foundation provides resources targeted to geriatric oncology
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure provides support for elderly women with breast cancer, and also provides funding to researchers targeting breast cancer
- The University of Chicago’s SOCARE clinic provides support and medical care for seniors with cancer
- A list of current clinical trials provided through the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer center can be found here
- The National Institute of Health’s Senior Health program (link) provides support to elderly cancer survivors
- Many other universities and cancer care centers provide support to seniors with cancer.
Even though seniors have the highest rate of cancer in any population within the United States, they are thought by many to have the least amount of support. This is an attitude that is changing as society realizes how important it is to protect the health of seniors.
Cancer Demographics in Women
Women experience cancer at all ages. There are specific cancers that women tend to experience, and certain cancers that are only experienced by women. Women-centric cancers normally include:
- Gestational Trophoblastic Disease
- Uterine Sarcoma
In other forms of cancer that are non-specific to the female gender, cancer rates tend to be higher in men.
Each year, around 39,000 American women die from breast cancer. This makes breast cancer the second leading cause of death in women between the ages of 18 and 65, and also means that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease throughout their lifetime.
Many foundations support women experiencing cancer and women-focused cancer research. The majority of these foundations are targeted specifically to women, but are sometimes generalized.
- Susan B. Komen for the Cure provides support, resources, and funding for breast cancer and breast cancer patients
- The Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) provides research funding, information, resources, and tools for patients and care teams
- The Women’s Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) provides funding for female oncological research, and is backed by a number of celebrities
- The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) is yet another celebrity-backed foundation providing funding for research and advancement in women’s cancer
- The Avon Foundation also provides breast cancer-oriented support and funding
- The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Care Center’s Women’s Board raises funds to benefit various female-oriented cancers
- The Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada (link) is involved in fundraising, patient care, and research on topics related to cancer in women, with a strong focus on gynecological cancers
Cancer Demographics in Men
Men have the highest cancer rates of any demographic group except for the elderly. Additionally, the rate of mortality for men who experience cancer is considerably higher than it is in women4. Men experience certain cancers exclusively. These cancers frequently include:
- Prostate Cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Penile cancer
Additionally, certain cancers occur more extensively in men. Men have an increased risk of the following cancers:
- Colon cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Skin cancer
- Lung cancer
Out of the above types of cancer, only lung cancer is close to the rates of diagnosis in women. Because men have both an increased risk of mortality and increased rates of diagnosis, nearly 854,790 men are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Nearly 40 percent of men alive today will be diagnosed with cancer.
Many foundations support male cancer patients and research into these devastating diseases. Some of the foundations and organizations that support men’s cancer research and funding focus on specific cancers, while others focus on non-specific cancer advancement for men. These organizations include:
- The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) serves men, medical professionals, and researchers who are focused on or experiencing prostate cancer
- Movember.com holds an event every year to raise funds for men’s cancer research. The event asks men to grow moustaches in the month of November for pledges and awareness purposes. While the premise is a bit of silly fun, they are an important source of funding for research, patient care, and those needing support through cancer
- The Testicular Cancer Society supports patient care, research, education, and many other forms of male-oriented cancer support.
- Dana-Farber also has a number of programs centered around cancers experienced more frequently by men
- The Memorial-Sloan Kettering center is also a significant source of support for men and researchers of male-oriented cancers.
- A number of currently active clinical trials for men with cancer can be found here, on the National Cancer Institute’s website.
In addition to the above mentioned foundations, many cancer centers across the country focus deeply on men’s cancer. The American Cancer Society, CancerCare.org, and the American Association for Cancer Research all support cancer research for men as well.
1. Berger NA, Savvides P, Koroukian SM, Kahana EF, Deimling GT, Rose JH, Bowman KF, Miller RH. [Cancer in the elderly](http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1500929). Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2006;117:147-55; discussion 155-6.
2. Retrieved from: [http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/study-helps-define-treatment-options-in-children-with-hard-to-treat-leukemias](http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/study-helps-define-treatment-options-in-children-with-hard-to-treat-leukemias)
3. Retrieved from:
4. Hendrick, Bill. “[Men Have Higher Cancer Death Rates Than Women.](http://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20110712/men-have-higher-cancer-death-rates-than-women)” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Dec. 2013.