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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The relative risk of second primary cancers in Queensland, Australia: a retrospective cohort study

Danny R Youlden1* and Peter D Baade12

Author Affiliations

1 Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, Cancer Council Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

2 School of Public Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:83  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-83

Published: 23 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Cancer survivors face an increased likelihood of being subsequently diagnosed with another cancer. The aim of this study was to quantify the relative risk of survivors developing a second primary cancer in Queensland, Australia.

Methods

Standardised incidence rates stratified by type of first primary cancer, type of second primary cancer, sex, age at first diagnosis, period of first diagnosis and follow-up interval were calculated for residents of Queensland, Australia, who were diagnosed with a first primary invasive cancer between 1982 and 2001 and survived for a minimum of 2 months.

Results

A total of 23,580 second invasive primary cancers were observed over 1,370,247 years of follow-up among 204,962 cancer patients. Both males (SIR = 1.22; 95% CI = 1.20-1.24) and females (SIR = 1.36; 95% CI = 1.33-1.39) within the study cohort were found to have a significant excess risk of developing a second cancer relative to the incidence of cancer in the general population. The observed number of second primary cancers was also higher than expected within each age group, across all time periods and during each follow-up interval.

Conclusions

The excess risk of developing a second malignancy among cancer survivors can likely be attributed to factors including similar aetiologies, genetics and the effects of treatment, underlining the need for ongoing monitoring of cancer patients to detect subsequent tumours at an early stage. Education campaigns developed specifically for survivors may be required to lessen the prevalence of known cancer risk factors.