Cancer risks to spouses and offspring in the Family-Cancer Database

Kari Hemminki, Chuanhui Dong, Pauli Vaittinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


It is generally accepted that cancer is caused by environmental and inherited factors but these are only partially identified. Family studies can be informative but they do not separate shared lifestyles and genes. We estimate familial risks for concordant cancers between spouses in common cancers of both sexes in order to quantify cancer risks from the shared environment. The risks are compared to those seen between parents and offspring in order to estimate the inherited component. The nation-wide Family-Cancer Database was used as the source of family and cancer data. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) were calculated for concordant cancer in offspring by parental cancer and in spouses. Among the 23 cancer sites considered, all but two showed an increased SIR for offspring by father or mother. Only two sites, stomach and lung, showed an increase in SIR of concordant cancer among spouses. Additionally, pancreatic cancer and melanoma were increased in couples where at least one spouse was diagnosed before age 50. If both spouses presented melanoma before age 40, SIR was 3.82 for husbands. SIRs of colon, renal, and skin (squamous cell) cancers were unchanged by spouses' concordant cancer. Shared lifestyle among spouses seems to explain only a small proportion of cancer susceptibility. Because lifestyles are likely to differ more between parents and offspring than between spouses, familial cancer risks between parents and offspring are likely to be more due to heritable rather than environmental effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-257
Number of pages11
JournalGenetic Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer in spouses
  • Familial cancer
  • Genetic epidemiology
  • Heredity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Epidemiology


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