Trends in Overall Survival and Treatment Patterns in Two Large Population-Based Cohorts of Patients with Breast and Colorectal Cancer

Doris van Abbema, Pauline Vissers, Judith de Vos-Geelen, Valery Lemmens, Maryska Janssen-Heijnen, Vivianne Tjan-Heijnen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Previous studies showed substantial improvement of survival rates in patients with cancer in the last two decades. However, lower survival rates have been reported for older patients compared to younger patients. In this population-based study, we analyzed treatment patterns and the survival of patients with breast cancer (BC) and colorectal cancer (CRC). Patients with stages I-III BC and CRC and diagnosed between 2003 and 2012 were selected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry (NCR). Trends in treatment modalities were evaluated with the Cochran-Armitage trend test. Trends in five-year overall survival were calculated with the Cox hazard regression model. The Ederer II method was used to calculate the five-year relative survival. The relative excess risk of death (RER) was estimated using a multivariate generalized linear model. During the study period, 98% of BC patients aged = 75 years, rates were 79.3% in 2003 and 66.7% in 2012 (p <0.001). Most CRC patients underwent surgery irrespective of age or time period, although patients with rectal cancer aged >= 75 years received less surgery or radiotherapy over the entire study period than younger patients. The administration of adjuvant chemotherapy increased over time for CRC and BC patients, except for BC patients aged >= 75 years. The five-year relative survival improved only in younger BC patients (adjusted RER 0.95-0.96 per year), and was lower for older BC patients (adjusted RER 1.00, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.98-1.02, and RER 1.00; 95% CI 0.98-1.01 per year for 65-74 years and >= 75 years, respectively). For CRC patients, the five-year relative survival improved over time for all ages (adjusted RER on average was 0.95 per year). In conclusion, the observed survival trends in BC and CRC patients suggest advances in cancer treatment, but with striking differences in survival between older and younger patients, particularly for BC patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1239
Number of pages15
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • breast cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • relative survival
  • older patients
  • geriatric oncology
  • cancer treatment
  • TIME
  • AGE

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