Open Access Research article

Changes in period and cohort effects on haematological cancer mortality in Spain, 1952-2006

Roberto Pastor-Barriuso12* and Gonzalo López-Abente12

Author Affiliations

1 National Center for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Monforte de Lemos 5, 28029, Madrid, Spain

2 Consortium for Biomedical Research in Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP), Melchor Fernández Almagro 3-5, 28029, Madrid, Spain

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:250  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-250

Published: 10 April 2014



In contrast to other haematological cancers, mortality from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma increased dramatically during the second half of the 20th century in most developed countries. This widespread upward trend remains controversial, as it may be attributable either to progressive improvements in diagnosis and certification or to increasing exposures to little-known but relevant risk factors.


To assess the relative contribution of these factors, we analysed the independent effects of age, death period, and birth cohort on haematological cancer mortality rates in Spain across the period 1952-2006. Weighted joinpoint regression analyses were performed to detect and estimate changes in period and cohort curvatures.


Although mortality rates were consistently higher among men, trends across periods and cohorts were virtually identical in both sexes. There was an early period trend reversal in the 1960s for Hodgkin’s disease and leukaemia, which was delayed to the 1980s for multiple myeloma and the 1990s for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Birth cohort patterns showed a first downturn for generations born in the 1900s and 1910s for all haematological cancers, and a second trend reversal for more recent cohorts born in the 1950s and 1960s for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukaemia.


The sustained decline in Hodgkin’s disease mortality and the levelling off in leukaemia seem to be driven by an early period effect linked to improvements in disease treatment, whereas the steep upward trends in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma mortality in Spain are more likely explained by a cohort effect linked to better diagnosis and death certification in the elderly. The consistent male excess mortality across all calendar periods and age groups points to the importance of possible sex-related genetic markers of susceptibility in haematological cancers.

Haematological cancer mortality; Period and cohort effects; Change-points; Diagnosis and certification improvements