28 studies involving more than 34 000 patients were analysed for the research conducted by Dr Peter Simmonds, of Southampton General Hospital, UK, and the Colorectal Cancer Collaborative Group.
Peter Simmonds and his colleagues found that cancer was often diagnosed late in elderly patients - confounding efforts to assess whether their treatment was comparable with younger patients.
The review found that 21 per cent of patients over the age of 85 years were not given surgery, compared with four per cent of those under the age of 65 years. But the elderly patients were six times more likely to die within a month of an operation than the younger group.
"Elderly patients with colorectal cancer should not be denied surgery on the basis of age alone."
The researchers write: "Elderly patients with colorectal cancer should not be denied surgery on the basis of age alone.
"Length of life without operation cannot be predicted, but pain, change of bowel habit, poor general health, and development of complications, such as bowel obstruction are all likely to affect quality of life if the primary tumour is not resected."
They say that many patients will survive for two years or more after surgery, and call for surgeons to use a "comprehensive geriatric assessment instrument" to determine the risk of the procedure.
Writing a commentary in the same journal, PG Alley, of North Shore Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand, suggests that senior specialists, including geriatricians and anesthetists, and the patients themselves should be involved in decisions about surgery.
Report Copyright: Englemed Health News at http://www.internationalmedicalnews.com