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      The Epidemiology of Sarcoma

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          Sarcomas account for over 20% of all pediatric solid malignant cancers and less than 1% of all adult solid malignant cancers. The vast majority of diagnosed sarcomas will be soft tissue sarcomas, while malignant bone tumors make up just over 10% of sarcomas. The risks for sarcoma are not well-understood. We evaluated the existing literature on the epidemiology and etiology of sarcoma. Risks for sarcoma development can be divided into environmental exposures, genetic susceptibility, and an interaction between the two. HIV-positive individuals are at an increased risk for Kaposi’s sarcoma, even though HHV8 is the causative virus. Radiation exposure from radiotherapy has been strongly associated with secondary sarcoma development in certain cancer patients. In fact, the risk of malignant bone tumors increases as the cumulative dose of radiation to the bone increases (p for trend <0.001). A recent meta-analysis reported that children with a history of hernias have a greater risk of developing Ewing’s sarcoma (adjusted OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.9, 5.7). Bone development during pubertal growth spurts has been associated with osteosarcoma development. Occupational factors such as job type, industry, and exposures to chemicals such as herbicides and chlorophenols have been suggested as risk factors for sarcomas. A case-control study found a significant increase in soft tissue sarcoma risk among gardeners (adjusted OR 4.1, 95% CI 1.00, 14.00), but not among those strictly involved in farming. A European-based study reported an increased risk in bone tumors among blacksmiths, toolmakers, or machine-tool operators (adjusted OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.08, 4.26). Maternal and paternal characteristics such as occupation, age, smoking status, and health conditions experienced during pregnancy also have been suggested as sarcoma risk factors and would be important to assess in future studies. The limited studies we identified demonstrate significant relationships with sarcoma risk, but many of these results now require further validation on larger populations. Furthermore, little is known about the biologic mechanisms behind each epidemiologic association assessed in the literature. Future molecular epidemiology studies may increase our understanding of the genetic versus environmental contributions to tumorigenesis in this often deadly cancer in children and adults.

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          Germ line p53 mutations in a familial syndrome of breast cancer, sarcomas, and other neoplasms.

          Familial cancer syndromes have helped to define the role of tumor suppressor genes in the development of cancer. The dominantly inherited Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) is of particular interest because of the diversity of childhood and adult tumors that occur in affected individuals. The rarity and high mortality of LFS precluded formal linkage analysis. The alternative approach was to select the most plausible candidate gene. The tumor suppressor gene, p53, was studied because of previous indications that this gene is inactivated in the sporadic (nonfamilial) forms of most cancers that are associated with LFS. Germ line p53 mutations have been detected in all five LFS families analyzed. These mutations do not produce amounts of mutant p53 protein expected to exert a trans-dominant loss of function effect on wild-type p53 protein. The frequency of germ line p53 mutations can now be examined in additional families with LFS, and in other cancer patients and families with clinical features that might be attributed to the mutation.
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            Occupation and cancer - follow-up of 15 million people in five Nordic countries.

            We present up to 45 years of cancer incidence data by occupational category for the Nordic populations. The study covers the 15 million people aged 30-64 years in the 1960, 1970, 1980/1981 and/or 1990 censuses in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and the 2.8 million incident cancer cases diagnosed in these people in a follow-up until about 2005. The study was undertaken as a cohort study with linkage of individual records based on the personal identity codes used in all the Nordic countries. In the censuses, information on occupation for each person was provided through free text in self-administered questionnaires. The data were centrally coded and computerised in the statistical offices. For the present study, the original occupational codes were reclassified into 53 occupational categories and one group of economically inactive persons. All Nordic countries have a nation-wide registration of incident cancer cases during the entire study period. For the present study the incident cancer cases were classified into 49 primary diagnostic categories. Some categories have been further divided according to sub-site or morphological type. The observed number of cancer cases in each group of persons defined by country, sex, age, period and occupation was compared with the expected number calculated from the stratum specific person years and the incidence rates for the national population. The result was presented as a standardised incidence ratio, SIR, defined as the observed number of cases divided by the expected number. For all cancers combined (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), the study showed a wide variation among men from an SIR of 0.79 (95% confidence interval 0.66-0.95) in domestic assistants to 1.48 (1.43-1.54) in waiters. The occupations with the highest SIRs also included workers producing beverage and tobacco, seamen and chimney sweeps. Among women, the SIRs varied from 0.58 (0.37-0.87) in seafarers to 1.27 (1.19-1.35) in tobacco workers. Low SIRs were found for farmers, gardeners and teachers. Our study was able to repeat most of the confirmed associations between occupations and cancers. It is known that almost all mesotheliomas are associated with asbestos exposure. Accordingly, plumbers, seamen and mechanics were the occupations with the highest risk in the present study. Mesothelioma was the cancer type showing the largest relative differences between the occupations. Outdoor workers such as fishermen, gardeners and farmers had the highest risk of lip cancer, while the lowest risk was found among indoor workers such as physicians and artistic workers. Studies of nasal cancer have shown increased risks associated with exposure to wood dust, both for those in furniture making and for those exposed exclusively to soft wood like the majority of Nordic woodworkers. We observed an SIR of 1.84 (1.66-2.04) in male and 1.88 (0.90-3.46) in female woodworkers. For nasal adenocarcinoma, the SIR in males was as high as 5.50 (4.60-6.56). Male waiters and tobacco workers had the highest risk of lung cancer, probably attributable to active and passive smoking. Miners and quarry workers also had a high risk, which might be related to their exposure to silica dust and radon daughters. Among women, tobacco workers and engine operators had a more than fourfold risk as compared with the lung cancer risk among farmers, gardeners and teachers. The occupational risk patterns were quite similar in all main histological subtypes of lung cancer. Bladder cancer is considered as one of the cancer types most likely to be related to occupational carcinogens. Waiters had the highest risk of bladder cancer in men and tobacco workers in women, and the low-risk categories were the same ones as for lung cancer. All this can be accounted for by smoking. The second-highest SIRs were among chimney sweeps and hairdressers. Chimney sweeps are exposed to carcinogens such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the chimney soot, and hairdressers' work environment is also rich in chemical agents. Exposure to the known hepatocarcinogens, the Hepatitis B virus and aflatoxin, is rare in the Nordic countries, and a large proportion of primary liver cancers can therefore be attributed to alcohol consumption. The highest risks of liver cancer were seen in occupational categories with easy access to alcohol at the work place or with cultural traditions of high alcohol consumption, such as waiters, cooks, beverage workers, journalists and seamen. The risk of colon cancer has been related to sedentary work. The findings in the present study did not strongly indicate any protective role of physical activity. Colon cancer was one of the cancer types showing the smallest relative variation in incidence between occupational categories. The occupational variation in the risk of female breast cancer (the most common cancer type in the present series, 373 361 cases) was larger, and there was a tendency of physically demanding occupations to show SIRs below unity. Women in occupations which require a high level of education have, on average, a higher age at first child-birth and elevated breast cancer incidence. Women in occupational categories with the highest average number of children had markedly lower incidence. In male breast cancer (2 336 cases), which is not affected by the dominating reproductive factors, there was a suggestion of an increase in risk in occupations characterised by shift work. Night-shift work was recently classified as probably carcinogenic, with human evidence based on breast cancer research. The most common cancer among men in the present cohort was prostate cancer (339 973 cases). Despite the huge number of cases, we were unable to demonstrate any occupation-related risks. The observed small occupational variation could be easily explained by varying PSA test frequency. The Nordic countries are known for equity and free and equal access to health care for all citizens. The present study shows that the risk of cancer, even under these circumstances, is highly dependent on the person's position in the society. Direct occupational hazards seem to explain only a small percentage of the observed variation - but still a large number of cases - while indirect factors such as life style changes related to longer education and decreasing physical activity become more important. This publication is the first one from the extensive Nordic Occupational Cancer (NOCCA) project. Subsequent studies will focus on associations between specific work-related factors and cancer diseases with the aim to identify exposure-response patterns. In addition to the cancer data demonstrated in the present publication, the NOCCA project produced Nordic Job Exposure Matrix (described in separate articles in this issue of Acta Oncologica) that transforms information about occupational title histories to quantitative estimates of specific exposures. The third essential component is methodological development related to analysis and interpretation of results based on averaged information of exposures and co-factors in the occupational categories.
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              A cancer family syndrome in twenty-four kindreds.

              A search of the Cancer Family Registry of the National Cancer Institute revealed 24 kindreds with the syndrome of sarcoma, breast carcinoma, and other neoplasms in young patients. Cancer developed in an autosomal dominant pattern in 151 blood relatives, 119 (79%) of whom were affected before 45 years of age. These young patients had a total of 50 bone and soft tissue sarcomas of diverse histological subtypes and 28 breast cancers. Additional features of the syndrome included an excess of brain tumors (14 cases), leukemia (9 cases), and adrenocortical carcinoma (4 cases) before age 45 years. These neoplasms also accounted for 73% of the multiple primary cancers occurring in 15 family members. Six of these patients had second cancers linked to radiotherapy. The diversity of tumor types in this syndrome suggests pathogenetic mechanisms which differ from hereditary cancers arising in single organs or tissues. The syndrome is presently diagnosed on clinical grounds; laboratory markers are needed to identify high-risk individuals and families and to provide insights into susceptibility mechanisms that may be shared by a wide variety of cancers.

                Author and article information

                Clin Sarcoma Res
                Clin Sarcoma Res
                Clinical Sarcoma Research
                BioMed Central
                4 October 2012
                : 2
                : 14
                [1 ]Department of Family And Preventive Medicine, University of Utah, 2000 Circle of Hope, HCI-4245, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA
                [2 ]Division of Epidemiology/Clinical Research, Department of Pediatrics and Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA
                [3 ]Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Center for Children's Cancer Research, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
                Copyright ©2012 Burningham et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


                Oncology & Radiotherapy


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