Background: As a higher proportion of adults live beyond 85 years, their cancer burden is expected to increase. While trends among the oldest old are established for major epithelial cancers (breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers), they are less studied for minor cancers. This study describes age trends of cancer mortality, with emphasis on individuals aged 85+ years.

Results: Overall cancer mortality peaked at 85 years old and decreased or stabilized for all countries except the USA, France, and Japan, in which mortality continued to increase after age 85 years. For most countries, cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, liver, and larynx have a similar flat trend patterns across all ages. Bladder and kidney cancers as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia showed a decreasing pattern after 85 years for UK, Germany, Italy and Poland. Lung cancer peaked at 80 years, although the age-specific peak among women did not follow the same pattern among all countries. Breast and prostate cancers increased after 85 years.

Conclusion: Mortality stabilized or decreased after age 85, particularly for non-hormonal cancers. Whether this reflects a true biological levelling of mortality rates, or lower validity of cancer registration among the oldest old, remains open to discussion.

Methods: Completed death data were obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO) for eight countries (2000 to 2014). Age-specific mortality rates were calculated for each 5-year age group above age 64. Joinpoint regression models were used to identify significant changes in mortality trends by age.