World Cancer Day 2022: Understanding the intersection of cancer and ageing

The world’s population is aging more quickly than ever before, and this is true also for the part of the population living with cancer. On World Cancer Day, Sanofi would like to raise awareness of the challenges of cancer and ageing, and the importance of a holistic approach to give the aging cancer population the support they need to be able to grow old, maintaining their quality of life.

When Cancer Grows Old (leave in ENG): when cancer patients survive to old age

Recent medical breakthroughs are bringing significant hope and improved outcomes to people living with cancer, and with the help of new technological platform and innovative research, Sanofi is committed to bringing the next generation of cancer treatments to improve patients’ lives. However, it is important to recognize that improved treatment options are not the only factor to improve quality of life for patients with cancer.

By 2050, the number of people over 60 is expected to double.1 People with cancer are also growing older. Approximately 37% of new cancer cases around the world are diagnosed in people older than 702, and this number is predicted to more than double by 2040.3 With the populations growing older and cancer treatments improving, there will be an increase in patients receiving a cancer diagnosis in older age, as well as growing groups of patients who have been through a treatment journey and will live years or even decades after a cancer diagnosis. This staggering trend will place a significant burden on individuals, families, communities and healthcare systems worldwide.4

On World Cancer Day, Sanofi is proud to share our commitment to helping everyone with cancer grow older. Our When Cancer Grows Old initiative in collaboration with the global oncology community, aims to provide a platform to educate on the intersection of cancer and ageing and start a conversation on the unique challenges faced by ageing people living with cancer, their families and communities.

Addressing unmet needs in policy and health care

In 2020, Sanofi commissioned the Economist Intelligence Unit to identify policy gaps around cancer and aging. The report, Cancer and Aging: Policy Responses to Meeting the Needs of Older People, provides key considerations for societies to better respond to the unique needs of older people during their cancer journey. The findings include personalized resources during the screening and treatment process, better clinical data on older patients, stronger support to help cope with the psychosocial burden of the disease, and multidisciplinary teams to over the complex health needs that many older patients may have.5 Read the full report here.

Addressing quality of life after a cancer diagnosis

As most cancer treatments aim to improve the amount of time without cancer or without the cancer spreading, we must think not only about survival, but quality of life. Quality of life looks different depending on access to therapies, age at diagnosis, stage of the cancer and level of support from the health care system and family members. Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a stressful event which impacts the mental health of cancer patients as well as their family members. Even after the most acute period following a diagnosis and subsequent treatment, for those patients who can continue to live and age with their cancer, there will be the mental burden of living with the worry of the cancer returning, or the lingering impact on cognitive functions or physical limitations.

To help patients and their families handle the acute stress of a cancer diagnosis as well as learning to live with the disease after having gone through treatment, Sanofi has created support materials in collaboration with psychologists who specialize in life changing events and rehabilitation. The aim is to help patients set perspectives and inspire a way to emerge from the crisis and cope with their new situation. Find all coping materials here.


  1. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Ageing 2017 - Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/397).
  2. Globocan. Global Cancer Observatory Cancer Tomorrow. World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Website. 2018. Accessed on 26 Nov, 2019.
  3. Globocan. Global Cancer Observatory Cancer Tomorrow. World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer Website. 2018. Accessed on 26 Nov, 2019.
  4. Pilleron, S., Sarfati, D., Janssen‐Heijnen, M., Vignat, J , Ferlay, J., Bray, F. and Soerjomataram, I. (2019), Global cancer incidence in older adults, 2012 and 2035: A population‐based study. Int J Cancer, 144: 49-58. doi:10.1002/ijc.31664.
  5. Cancer and Aging: Policy Responses to Meeting the Needs of Older People (2020).