Elevated cancer risk in Holocaust survivors residing in Israel: A retrospective cohort study

Ran Ben David, Aya Biderman, Michael Sherf, Omri Zamstein, Jacob Dreiher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The purpose of this study was to examine the incidence of malignant diseases among Holocaust survivors in Israel compared with European and American immigrants who did not experience the Holocaust. Methods: Study subjects included Holocaust survivors born in European countries under Nazi occupation before 1945, who immigrated to Israel after 1945 and were alive as of the year 2000. Living survivors were identified based on recognition criteria in accordance with the Holocaust Survivor Benefits Law. The comparison group consisted of Clalit enrollees who were born before 1945 in European countries not under Nazi occupation and were alive in 2000 or were born in any European country or America, immigrated to Israel before 1939 and were alive in 2000. The incidence of malignant diseases was compared in univariate and Poisson regression models analyses, controlling for age, smoking, obesity, diabetes and place of residence. Results: The study included 294,543 Holocaust survivors, and the mean age at the beginning of follow-up was 74 ± 8.7 years; 43% males. In multivariable analyses, the rate ratio (RR) values for males and females were 1.9 and 1.3 for colon cancer, 1.9 and 1.4 for lung cancer, 1.6 and 1.4 for bladder cancer and 1.2 and 1.3 for melanoma, respectively. For prostate cancer in males, the RR was 1.4, while for breast cancer in females, it was 1.2. Conclusions: The incidence of malignant diseases among Holocaust survivors residing in Israel was higher than that among non-Holocaust survivors. These associations remained statistically significant in a multivariable analysis and were stronger for males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cancer
  • Epidemiology
  • Holocaust
  • Jewish
  • Malignant diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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