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A small proportion of childhood cancer is attributable to known hereditary syndromes, but whether there is any familial component to the remainder remains uncertain. We explored familial aggregation of cancer in a population-based case-control study using genealogical record linkage and designed to overcome limitations of previous studies. Subjects were selected from the Utah Population Database. We compared risk of cancer in adult first-degree relatives of children who were diagnosed with cancer with the risk in relatives of children who had not had a cancer diagnosed. We identified 1,894 childhood cancer cases and 3,788 controls; 7,467 relatives of cases and 14,498 relatives of controls were included in the analysis. Relatives of children with cancer had a higher risk of cancer in adulthood than relatives of children without cancer [odds ratio (OR) 1.31, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.11-1.56]; this was restricted to mothers and siblings and was not evident in fathers. Familial aggregation appeared stronger among relatives of cases diagnosed before 5 years of age (OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.13-1.95) than among relatives of cases who were older when diagnosed (OR 1.22, 95% CI 0.98-1.51). These findings provide evidence of a generalized excess of cancer in the mothers and siblings of children with cancer. The tendency for risk to be higher in the relatives of children who were younger at cancer diagnosis should be investigated in other large data sets. The excesses of thyroid cancer in parents of children with cancer and of any cancer in relatives of children with leukemia merit further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Cancer

Publication Date





2953 - 2960


adult, age, cancer, child, familial risk, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Case-Control Studies, Child, Child, Preschool, Family, Female, Genealogy and Heraldry, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Utah