Cancer risk among Holocaust survivors in Israel—A nationwide study

Siegal Sadetzki, Angela Chetrit, Laurence S. Freedman, Nina Hakak, Micha Barchana, Raphael Catane, Mordechai Shani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Holocaust survivors during World War II were exposed to various factors that are associated with cancer risk. The objective of this study was to determine whether Holocaust survivors had an increased risk for developing cancer. METHODS: The study population included 152,622 survivors. The main analysis was based on a comparison between individuals who were entitled to compensation for suffering persecution during the war and individuals who were denied such compensation. A complementary analysis compared survivors who were born in countries governed by Nazi Germany with survivors born in nonoccupied countries. A Cox proportional hazards model was used, with the time at risk of cancer development starting on either January 1, 1960, or the date of immigration to the date of cancer diagnosis or death or the date of last follow-up (December 31, 2006). RESULTS: Cancer was diagnosed in 22.2% of those who were granted compensation versus 16% of those who were denied compensation (P <.0001). Adjusting for birth cohort, sex, country of origin, and period of immigration, both analyses revealed significant increased risks of developing cancer in those who were exposed. For those who were granted versus denied compensation, the hazard ratios were 1.06 (P <.001) for all sites, 1.12 (P =.07) for colorectal cancer, and 1.37 (P =.008) for lung cancer. For those born in occupied countries versus nonoccupied countries, the hazard ratios were 1.08 (P <.001), 1.08 (P =.003), and 1.12 (P =.02), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The current results, based on a large cohort of Holocaust survivors who were exposed to a variety of severe deprivations, add to the conflicting and sparse knowledge on this issue and support the notion that this group has a small but consistent increase in cancer development. Cancer 2017;123:3335-45.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3335-3345
Number of pages11
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Cancer Society


  • Holocaust survivors
  • cancer
  • colon cancer
  • lung cancer
  • risk factors
  • severe starvation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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