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Letter to the Editor   |    
Cancer Risk in Parents of Patients With Schizophrenia
DIRK LICHTERMANN, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:1024-1024. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.5.1024

To the Editor: Reassuring as it is to see that a recent record linkage study from Denmark by Susanne Oksbjerg Dalton, M.D., Ph.D., et al. (1) accurately replicated our previous finding of a reduced incidence of cancer in the parents of patients with schizophrenia in Finland compared with the general population (2), I was surprised to recognize that this difference vanished when parents whose children were free of schizophrenia were chosen as the comparison group instead. Thus, the authors made a point that our common finding with the general population as the reference group should be invalid, and they claimed a "healthy parenthood effect" as the critical source of bias. However, when testing our genetic hypothesis, they should have considered parents exposed to cancer risk throughout their lifetime. I am not sure whether their method of having follow-up for cancer in parents starts only at the birth of the first child or, alternatively, at the birth (or age at disease onset) of the first child with schizophrenia might have biased their finding of equal cancer risk (e.g., given that some studies find schizophrenia risk to depend on birth order, e.g., Kemppainen et al. [3]). Also, the "healthy parenthood effect" they introduced from a Danish study that found parents of children with cancer at no higher incidence than the general population (4) did not receive general support from several other population studies in parents of individuals with cancer at a younger age (57), and it seems counterintuitive at least since a significant proportion of cancer at a younger age is known to occur on a genetic basis. In fact, the only other retrievable large population study that compared cancer risk between the relatives of patients with cancer and the relatives of otherwise deceased persons from Utah (instead of the general population) still found familial cancer risk increased (8). Therefore, I doubt the general validity of the "healthy parenthood effect." It would have been useful to see whether cancer risk in the Danish comparison group of parous individuals with no child affected by schizophrenia was indeed lower than in the general population, including parous and nonparous individuals. Unfortunately, the lack of resources does not currently permit me to replicate, in turn, selection of a parous comparison group from the Finnish population register and analyses similar to those of the Danish study. Meanwhile, I commend the colleagues from Denmark for drawing benefit from the excellent epidemiological material available in Nordic countries, and I hope that other appropriate registers (e.g., Hemminki et al. [9]) will contribute.

Dalton SO, Laursen TM, Mellemkjær L, Johansen C, Mortensen PB: Risk for cancer in parents of patients with schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry  2004; 161:903–908
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Lichtermann D, Ekelund J, Pukkala E, Tanskanen A, Lönnqvist J: Incidence of cancer among persons with schizophrenia and their relatives. Arch Gen Psychiatry  2001; 58:573–578
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Kemppainen L, Veijola J, Jokelainen J, Hartikainen AL, Jarvelin MR, Jones P, Croudace T, Isohanni M: Birth order and risk for schizophrenia: a 31-year follow-up of the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. Acta Psychiatr Scand  2001; 104:148–152
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Olsen JH, Boice JD Jr, Seersholm N, Bautz A, Fraumeni JF Jr: Cancer in the parents of children with cancer. N Engl J Med  1995; 333:1594–1599
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Sondergaard JO, Bulow S, Lynge E: Cancer incidence among parents of patients with colorectal cancer. Int J Cancer  1991; 47:202–206
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Westergaard T, Olsen JH, Frisch M, Kroman N, Nielsen JW, Melbye M: Cancer risk in fathers and brothers of testicular cancer patients in Denmark: a population-based study. Int J Cancer  1996; 66:627–631
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Pang D, McNally R, Kelsey A, Birch JM: Cancer incidence and mortality among the parents of a population-based series of 2,604 children with cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev  2003; 12:538–544
[PubMed]
 
Goldgar DE, Easton DF, Cannon-Albright LA, Skolnick MH: Systematic population-based assessment of cancer risk in first-degree relatives of cancer probands. J Natl Cancer Inst  1994; 86:1600–1608
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hemminki K, Li X, Plna K, Granstrom C, Vaittinen P: The nation-wide Swedish family-cancer database—updated structure and familial rates. Acta Oncol  2001; 40:772–777
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
+

References

Dalton SO, Laursen TM, Mellemkjær L, Johansen C, Mortensen PB: Risk for cancer in parents of patients with schizophrenia. Am J Psychiatry  2004; 161:903–908
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Lichtermann D, Ekelund J, Pukkala E, Tanskanen A, Lönnqvist J: Incidence of cancer among persons with schizophrenia and their relatives. Arch Gen Psychiatry  2001; 58:573–578
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Kemppainen L, Veijola J, Jokelainen J, Hartikainen AL, Jarvelin MR, Jones P, Croudace T, Isohanni M: Birth order and risk for schizophrenia: a 31-year follow-up of the Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort. Acta Psychiatr Scand  2001; 104:148–152
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Olsen JH, Boice JD Jr, Seersholm N, Bautz A, Fraumeni JF Jr: Cancer in the parents of children with cancer. N Engl J Med  1995; 333:1594–1599
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Sondergaard JO, Bulow S, Lynge E: Cancer incidence among parents of patients with colorectal cancer. Int J Cancer  1991; 47:202–206
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Westergaard T, Olsen JH, Frisch M, Kroman N, Nielsen JW, Melbye M: Cancer risk in fathers and brothers of testicular cancer patients in Denmark: a population-based study. Int J Cancer  1996; 66:627–631
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Pang D, McNally R, Kelsey A, Birch JM: Cancer incidence and mortality among the parents of a population-based series of 2,604 children with cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev  2003; 12:538–544
[PubMed]
 
Goldgar DE, Easton DF, Cannon-Albright LA, Skolnick MH: Systematic population-based assessment of cancer risk in first-degree relatives of cancer probands. J Natl Cancer Inst  1994; 86:1600–1608
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
Hemminki K, Li X, Plna K, Granstrom C, Vaittinen P: The nation-wide Swedish family-cancer database—updated structure and familial rates. Acta Oncol  2001; 40:772–777
[PubMed]
[CrossRef]
 
+
+

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