Febrile infectious childhood diseases in the history of cancer patients and matched controls

Med Hypotheses. 1998 Oct;51(4):315-20. doi: 10.1016/s0306-9877(98)90055-x.


The present study was designed to investigate the hypothesis that febrile infectious childhood diseases (FICDs) are associated with a lower cancer risk in adulthood, since biographical considerations are of great importance in anthroposophic medicine. Cancer patients and control patients of 35 anthroposophic general practitioners in Switzerland were matched with respect to gender, age and physician. All patients completed a questionnaire on their FICD. We collected 424 cases; of these we could analyze 379 matched pairs. The study consistently revealed a lower cancer risk for patients with a history of FICD. The strongest associations were found between patients with non-breast cancers and rubella respectively chickenpox. A strong association was also found with the overall number of FICD both 'classical' (measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, scarlet-fever and chickenpox) and 'other'. None of these associations was apparent for patients with breast cancer. Unexpectedly, we found that cancer was diagnosed significantly earlier in life in cancer patients with a history of FICD compared to those without FICD. Our retrospective study showed a significant association between FICD and the risk of developing cancer. The number of FICD decreased the cancer risk, in particular for non-breast cancers. The relationship with tumor site seems to be important also, but can only be addressed in a larger study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Communicable Diseases / complications
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Fever* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland / epidemiology