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Cancer Res. 2005 Sep 15;65(18):8567-72.

Cancer susceptibility in nasopharyngeal carcinoma families--a population-based cohort study.

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Department of Epidemiology Research, Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, Statens Serum Institute, Copenhagen.


Undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma is a result of environmental factors, in particular EBV infection, affecting genetically susceptible individuals. The familial risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma is among the highest of any malignancy. Whether this susceptibility is restricted to nasopharyngeal carcinoma is unknown as information on the risk of other cancers in relatives is limited. We did a population-based study of the cancer incidence in nasopharyngeal carcinoma families in Greenland, a nasopharyngeal carcinoma-endemic area. Using population-based registers, a cohort of all persons born in Greenland was followed from 1973 to 2002. In this cohort, 134 individuals developed nasopharyngeal carcinoma and their relatives were identified through registers and interviews. Subsequently, the occurrence of cancer was determined by linkage to the population-based cancer register and the risk of cancer in nasopharyngeal carcinoma relatives and nonrelatives compared by relative risks. Among 766 first-degree relatives, the relative risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma following the family index case was 8.0 [95% confidence interval (95% CI), 4.1-14.0]. Sex and age of the relative or the index case had no modifying effect on the familial risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma. The relative risks of carcinoma of the salivary glands, 8.4 (95% CI, 2.7-19.5), and uterine cervix, 2.2 (95% CI, 1.1-3.9), were also significantly increased. In families with multiple cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, the risk of other cancers than nasopharyngeal carcinoma was further increased. These results indicate that the increased risk of cancer in nasopharyngeal carcinoma families is not restricted to nasopharyngeal carcinoma, but extends to the virally associated cancers of the salivary glands and cervical uteri.

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