Holocaust survivors face an increased risk for cancer, a new study finds.
The study included more than 152,600 survivors of the World War II genocide who were followed for more than 45 years. The researchers compared whether these survivors received compensation for their suffering and whether they were born in Nazi-occupied countries.
Cancer was diagnosed in 22 percent of compensated survivors and 16 percent of the others, the findings showed. Compensated survivors were 6 percent more likely to develop any type of cancer; 12 percent more likely to have colorectal cancer; and 37 percent more likely to have lung cancer.
In addition, the investigators found that people born in occupied countries had an 8 percent higher cancer risk. Their risk of colorectal cancer was also 8 percent higher, and their risk of lung cancer was 12 percent higher.
Female holocaust survivors had no added risk of breast or gynecologic cancers, according to the study published online July 10 in the journal Cancer.
Holocaust survivors were exposed to several factors linked to cancer, including starvation, overcrowding, infectious diseases and mental stress, the study authors noted.
“The data emphasize the importance of learning about the combined effect of several exposures occurring intensely and contemporaneously on cancer risk, such as those that unfortunately occurred during World War II,” study author Dr. Siegal Sadetzki said in a journal news release. Sadetzki is head of clinical epidemiology at Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel.
While the study found an association between these risk factors and cancer, it couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
“Such inspection cannot be conducted by experimental studies and could only be evaluated by using observational epidemiological surveys,” she added.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer.