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July 24, 1987

Age as a Risk Factor for Inadequate Treatment

Author Affiliations

Harvard Medical School Boston

Harvard Medical School Boston

JAMA. 1987;258(4):516. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400040114035

An age bias in treatment of breast cancer has been reported in a number of studies.1,2 Alternative explanations for different treatment of older patients have been suggested, including presentation for treatment at a later stage of disease and higher levels of comorbidity among the old.2 Greenfield et al3 reported that older patients are more likely to be provided inadequate treatment for breast cancer, even when controlling for stage of disease, comorbidity, and functional status. What then are the reasons for systematic denial of optimal care for this important segment of the population?

Is age an inadequate and inappropriate criterion on which to make treatment decisions? Although geriatricians have argued that the approach to elderly patients should be different from that for younger patients,4 it is imperative that alterations in care of patients due to age be based on science and data, not on misinformation and mistaken