The purpose of this study was to document the influence of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) on stage at diagnosis, treatment strategy, and survival for unselected cancer patients (35 years and older) diagnosed between 1995 and 2004 in the Eindhoven Cancer Registry. Follow-up of all patients was complete up to January 1st, 2006. Twelve percent of all cancer patients had COPD at the time of cancer diagnosis, being about 15% in elderly patients (65+) and up to 30% among lung cancer patients, middle-aged males and all females with oesophageal and laryngeal cancer, and middle-aged women with renal cancer. Stage at diagnoses was not significantly different between cancer patients with or without COPD, except for lung cancer patients who were diagnosed at an earlier stage. Nevertheless, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients with COPD less frequently underwent surgery, and chemotherapy, and more often radiotherapy. In the presence of COPD, women with oesophageal cancer underwent surgery less often, and patients with laryngeal cancer received radiotherapy more often. The effect of COPD on the type of oncological treatment was not different for middle-aged (35-64 years) and elderly cancer patients. In a multivariate Cox-regression model, COPD was associated with a significantly worse survival, especially for elderly patients with colon, rectum, larynx, prostate or urinary bladder cancer. In conclusion, not surprisingly, COPD is related with age and smoking-associated tumours. Therapy of cancer patients with COPD was different for head and neck tumours and primary tumours in the chest organs (above the diaphragm), for whom radiotherapy, as an alternative treatment option, was available. As COPD, especially at older age, is frequently associated with a worse prognosis, further prospective investigation of interactions seems warranted. Further, closer involvement of pulmonologists and COPD nurses in elderly cancer patients might be warranted.

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European Journal of Cancer
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van de Schans, S., Janssen-Heijnen, M., Biesma, B., Smeenk, F., van de Poll-Franse, L., Seynaeve, C., & Coebergh, J. W. (2007). COPD in cancer patients: Higher prevalence in the elderly, a different treatment strategy in case of primary tumours above the diaphragm, and a worse overall survival in the elderly patient. European Journal of Cancer, 43(15), 2194–2202. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2007.08.011