Cancer and longevity--is there a trade-off? A study of cooccurrence in Danish twin pairs born 1900-1918.


BACKGROUND: Animal models and a few human studies have suggested a complex interaction between cancer risk and longevity indicating a trade-off where low cancer risk is associated with accelerating aging phenotypes and, vice versa, that longevity potential comes with the cost of increased cancer risk. This hypothesis predicts that longevity in one twin is associated with increased cancer risk in the cotwin. METHODS: A total of 4,354 twin pairs born 1900-1918 in Denmark were followed for mortality in the Danish Civil Registration System through 2008 and for cancer incidence in the period 1943-2008 through the Danish Cancer Registry. RESULTS: The 8,139 twins who provided risk time for cancer occurrence entered the study between ages 24 and 43 (mean 33 years), and each participant was followed up to death, emigration, or at least 90 years of age. The total follow-up time was 353,410 person-years and, 2,524 cancers were diagnosed. A negative association between age at death of a twin and cancer incidence in the cotwin was found in the overall analyses as well as in the subanalysis stratified on sex, zygosity, and random selection of one twin from each twin pair. CONCLUSIONS: This study did not find evidence of a cancer-longevity trade-off in humans. On the contrary, it suggested that longevity in one twin is associated with lower cancer incidence in the cotwin, indicating familial factors associated with both low cancer occurrence and longevity.





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Publication Info

Christensen, Kaare, Jacob K Pedersen, Jacob VB Hjelmborg, James W Vaupel, Tinna Stevnsner, Niels V Holm and Axel Skytthe (2012). Cancer and longevity--is there a trade-off? A study of cooccurrence in Danish twin pairs born 1900-1918. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 67(5). pp. 489–494. 10.1093/gerona/gls087 Retrieved from

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