Familial risk of cancer: data for clinical counseling and cancer genetics

Int J Cancer. 2004 Jan 1;108(1):109-14. doi: 10.1002/ijc.11478.


Familial risks for cancer are important for clinical counseling and understanding cancer etiology. Medically verified data on familial risks have not been available for all types of cancer. The nationwide Swedish Family-Cancer Database includes all Swedes born in 1932 and later (0-to 68-year-old offspring) with their parents, totaling over 10.2 million individuals. Cancer cases were retrieved from the Swedish Cancer Registry up to year 2000. Standardized incidence ratios (SIR) and 95% confidence limits (CI) were calculated for age-specific familial risk in offspring by an exact proband status. The familial risks for offspring cancer were increased at 24/25 sites from concordant cancer in only the parent, at 20/21 sites from a sibling proband and at 12/12 sites from a parent and sibling proband. The highest SIRs by parent were for Hodgkin's disease (4.88) and testicular (4.26), non-medullary thyroid (3.26), ovarian (3.15) and esophageal (3.14) cancer and for multiple myeloma (3.33). When a sibling was affected, even prostate, renal, squamous cell skin, endocrine, gastric and lung cancer and leukemia showed SIRs in excess of 3.00. The highest cumulative risks were found for familial breast (5.5%) and prostate (4.2%) cancers. We identified reliable familial risks for 24 common neoplasms, most of which lack guidelines for clinical counseling or action level. If, for example, a familial SIR of 2.2 would be use as an action level, counseling would be needed for most cancers at some diagnostic age groups. The present data provide the basis for clinical counseling.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Counseling*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology