Affiliation: International PhD Program in Neuropharmacology, Department of Biological Chemistry, Medical Chemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Catania, Policlinico Universitario - Via S. Sofia, 78 - 95123 Catania, Italy.
Cancer in older people is a common problem worldwide. Among various types of cancer, skin cancers represent an important percentage. The principal risk factors are sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, fair skin color, but also the age plays an important role in the genesis of skin cancers. In older people there are a more prolonged exposure to carcinogenesis and a decreased functionality of reparation mechanisms of the cells so they acquire a selective advantage of growing and proliferating. At the same time age causes alteration in immune system by increasing NK-cells absolute number and decreasing both the endogenous and the lymphokine-induced lytic activities.
The anti-tumor immune response is also mediated by the cytotoxic T- lymphocytes and in the elderly a strong reduction of T-cell function has been demonstrated. In elderly patients the diagnosis and the treatment of skin cancers can be different from younger counterpart. For example in older patients with melanoma is important to evaluate Breslow depth while higher mitotic rate has major value in younger patients. Moreover, the treatment should consider the performance status of patients and their compliance.