NATIONAL (WIS) - Baby Boomers include those born between 1946 and 1964, and they are hitting an age that puts them at an increased risk for cancer.
And with it being such a big group of people, doctors are now preparing for a possible cancer epidemic down the road.
The first Baby Boomers have hit their 60's, an age when the risk of cancer starts to rise. In fact, a new dual medical specialty is emerging to cope with the large number of people who could develop the disease.
"Geriatric Oncology is something that's just now being recognized nationally as an area that people need to pay more attention to," says Dr. Gary Shapiro.
Doctors are learning that cancer gets more complex with age.
"What we're realizing is that older people with cancer may have other issues that impact the treatment of their cancer and the cancer, of course, impacts many of their other issues," said Shapiro.
Doctor Ilene Browner helped launch the new Geriatric Oncology program at Johns Hopkins. She says there needs to be more cancer studies on older people.
"Now we're beginning to understand that, yes, we need to put those patients in our trials even if they have other illnesses. Even if they get toxicity because those are patients we are treating and we need to see it, how those treatments work and what the outcomes are in the long term and the short term, so we can affect quality and quantity of life," said Browner.
Doctor Shapiro compares aging to walking a tight rope with cancer waiting to push you off.
"A lot of what we're trying to do in this program is to assess who might be able to be, who might be pushed off the tightrope easily, so that we can try to take necessary precautions and help people make decisions on how to be treated and sometimes even whether the cancer is enough of an issue for them that it needs to be treated," he said.
Boomers can thank cancer patients like Sarah Daniels. What doctors learn from her now may improve treatment of the disease down the road.
Some cancer and aging experts estimate that, in the next two decades, 70 percent of all cancers will occur in senior citizens.
You can reduce your risk by eating healthy, exercising and getting the appropriate screening tests.