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PLoS One. 2015 May 22;10(5):e0128018. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128018. eCollection 2015.

Cancer Incidence among Patients with Anorexia Nervosa from Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Author information

Virus, Lifestyle and Genes, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Uppsala University, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.
Finnish Cancer Registry, Institute for Statistical and Epidemiological Cancer Research, Helsinki, Finland; School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.
Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.
Statistics, Bioinformatics and Registry, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Research Management, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.


A diet with restricted energy content reduces the occurrence of cancer in animal experiments. It is not known if the underlying mechanism also exists in human beings. To determine whether cancer incidence is reduced among patients with anorexia nervosa who tend to have a low intake of energy, we carried out a retrospective cohort study of 22 654 women and 1678 men diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at ages 10-50 years during 1968-2010 according to National Hospital Registers in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The comparison group consisted of randomly selected persons from population registers who were similar to the anorexia nervosa patients in respect to sex, year of birth and place of residence. Patients and population comparisons were followed for cancer by linkage to Cancer Registries. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) were estimated using Poisson models. In total, 366 cases of cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) were seen among women with anorexia nervosa, and the IRR for all cancer sites was 0.97 (95% CI = 0.87-1.08) adjusted for age, parity and age at first child. There were 76 breast cancers corresponding to an adjusted IRR of 0.61 (95% CI = 0.49-0.77). Significantly increased IRRs were observed for esophageal, lung, and liver cancer. Among men with anorexia nervosa, there were 23 cases of cancer (age-adjusted IRR = 1.08; 95% CI = 0.71-1.66). There seems to be no general reduction in cancer occurrence among patients with anorexia nervosa, giving little support to the energy restriction hypothesis.

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