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Genet Med. 2012 Jan;14(1):107-14. doi: 10.1038/gim.2011.2.

A comprehensive survey of cancer risks in extended families.

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Division of Genetic Epidemiology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Erratum in

  • Genet Med. 2013 Jan;15(1):89-90.



Cancer is familial; yet known cancer predisposition genes, as well as recognized environmental factors, explain only a small percentage of familial cancer clusters. This population-based description of cancer clustering describes patterns of cancer coaggregation suggestive of a genetic predisposition.


Using a computerized genealogy of Utah families linked to a statewide cancer registry, we estimated the relative risks for 36 different cancer sites in first-, second-, and third-degree relatives of cancer cases, for each cancer site individually, and between cancer sites. We estimated the sex- and birth-year-specific rates for cancer using 1 million individuals in the resource. We applied these rates to groups of cases or relatives and compared the observed and expected numbers of cancers to estimate relative risks.


Many cancer sites show significantly elevated relative risks among distant relatives for cancer of the same site, strongly supporting a heritable contribution. Multiple combinations of cancer sites were observed among first-, second-, and third-degree relatives, suggesting the existence of heritable syndromes involving more than one cancer site.


This complete description of coaggregation of cancer by site in a well-defined population provides a set of observations supporting heritable cancer predispositions and may support the existence of genetic factors for many different cancers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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