Cancer incidence in Israeli jewish survivors of world war II

Lital Keinan-Boker, Neomi Vin-Raviv, Irena Liphshitz, Shai Linn, Micha Barchana

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86 Scopus citations


BackgroundIsraeli Jews of European origin have high incidence rates of all cancers, and many of them were exposed to severe famine and stress during World War II. We assessed cancer incidence in Israeli Jewish survivors of World War II.MethodsCancer rates were compared in a cohort of 315 544 Israeli Jews who were born in Europe and immigrated to Israel before or during World War II (nonexposed group, n = 57 496) or after World War II and up to 1989 (the exposed group, ie, those potentially exposed to the Holocaust, n = 258 048). Because no individual data were available on actual Holocaust exposure, we based exposure on the immigration date for European-born Israeli Jews and decided against use of the term "Holocaust survivors," implying a known, direct individual Holocaust exposure. Cancer incidences were obtained from the Israel National Cancer Registry. Relative risk (RR) estimates and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated for all cancer sites and for specific cancer sites, stratified by sex and birth cohort, and adjusted for time period.ResultsThe nonexposed group contributed 908 436 person-years of follow-up, with 13 237 cancer diagnoses (crude rate per 100 000 person-years = 1457.1). The exposed group contributed 4 011 264 person-years of follow-up, with 56 060 cancer diagnoses (crude rate per 100 000 person-years = 1397.6). Exposure, compared with nonexposure, was associated with a statistically significantly increased risk for all-site cancer for all birth cohorts and for both sexes. The strongest associations between exposure and all-site cancer risk were observed in the youngest birth cohort of 1940-1945 (for men, RR = 3.50, 95% CI = 2.17 to 5.65; for women, RR = 2.33, 95% CI = 1.69 to 3.21). Excess risk was pronounced for breast cancer in the 1940-1945 birth cohort (RR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.46 to 4.06) and for colorectal cancer in the 1935-1939 cohort (for men, RR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.19 to 2.59; for women, RR = 1.93, 95% CI = 1.25 to 3.00).ConclusionsIncidence of all cancers, particularly breast and colorectal cancer, was higher among Israeli Jews who were potentially exposed to the Holocaust than among those who were not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1500
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Issue number21
StatePublished - 4 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel (LK-B, NV-R, SL, MB); Israel Center for Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Tel Hashomer, Ramat Gan, Israel (LK-B); Israel National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health, Jerusalem, Israel (IL, MB); Unit of Clinical Epidemiology, Rambam Medical Center, Haifa, Israel (SL) .


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