Aging and Carcinogenesis

The increased incidence of cancer with age may be explained by the three, non-mutually exclusive mechanisms (1):

1. Duration of carcinogenesis: As carcinogenesis is lengthy and may extend over decades, it is reasonable to expect that cancer becomes more common with aging.

2. Increased susceptibility of aging tissues to environmental carcinogens due to the similarity of molecular changes of aging and carcinogenesis.

3. Changes in bodily environment that may favor the growth of cancer, including immune senescence and proliferative senescence of fibroblasts.

Aging and Tumor Growth

Tumor growth may be altered by two nonmutually exclusive mechanisms. Thinking of cancer as a tree, the growth of the tree may be influenced by the nature of the "seed," or the tumor cell, and of the "soil," or the tumor host. In rodents, the influence of the tumor host has been clearly established: when the same tumor load of B16 melanoma and LLC was injected in older and younger animals, the younger animals died earlier and with increased number of lung metastases (21).

In humans, the biology of cancer appears to change with age in at least some tumors (Table 1), and both seed and soil mechanisms appear to be involved (25).

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