Common infections in the history of cancer patients and controls

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 1991;117(4):339-44. doi: 10.1007/BF01630717.


The association between the frequency of manifest infectious diseases and cancer risk was investigated in a case-control study at Heidelberg, FRG. A total of 255 cases with carcinomas of the stomach, colon, rectum, breast, and ovary, as well as 255 population controls and 230 hospital controls were interviewed using a standard questionnaire. Controls were matched to the cases for age, sex, and region of residence at the time of the interview. A history of common colds or gastroenteric influenza prior to the interview was found to be associated with a decreased cancer risk. Thus the odds ratios for "three or more common colds per year (on average)" versus "no common cold within the last 5 years prior to the interview" were 0.18 (95% CI = 0.05-0.69) and 0.23 (95% CI = 0.06-0.89) relative to population controls and hospital controls, respectively. There was no apparent relationship between childhood infections or other diseases reported in the earlier history, and cancer risk. While the findings are supported by previous studies and fit well into the results of other fields of cancer research, a conclusive interpretation and biological explanation cannot yet be given.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Germany, West / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Factors