We estimated risks for concordant and discordant cancers in spouses in order to quantify cancer risks from the shared environment. The study was restricted to spouses who had one or more children in common and who lived together for at least 15 years after the first child's birth. The nation-wide Family-Cancer Database was used as the source of family and cancer data. Standardised incidence ratios were calculated for concordant and discordant cancers in spouses after 50 years of age. Among the 18 cancer sites considered, only three sites, stomach, lung and bladder, showed concordant increases of cancer among spouses, standardised incidence ratios ranging only from 1.19 to 1.38. Additionally, gastric and pancreatic cancer were associated among spouses, as did many cancers which were related to tobacco smoking or human papilloma virus infection. By contrast, standardised incidence ratios of colon, rectal, renal and skin cancers showed no increases among spouses. Shared lifestyle among family members seems to explain only a small proportion of familial cancer susceptibility. Because lifestyles are likely to differ more between parents and offspring than between spouses, familial cancer risks between parents and offspring are even more likely to be due to heritable than environmental effects.
Copyright 2002 Cancer Research UK