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Study links cancer to Holocaust survival

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 29, 2009 | 4:27 pm

As if the memories of the Holocaust weren’t painful enough, Holocaust survivors who emigrated to Israel have had a higher rate of cancer than other Israelis, according to a new study:

The rates of breast and colorectal cancer were particularly high among those who spent the war years in Nazi-occupied Europe, according to the paper, published Nov. 4 in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The most striking disparity was among those who were youngest during the war. Of the 315,544 subjects in the study, men born from 1940 to 1945 who were in Europe through the war years developed cancer at three and a half times the rate of men the same age who immigrated to Israel during the war; women in Europe throughout the war years were at more than double the risk, the study found.

The question of whether living in camps or under other dire conditions contributed to cancer in later life has long vexed Israeli experts.

“It is a very delicate question,” said Dr. Micha Barchana, director of the Israel National Cancer Registry and the paper’s senior author. “Holocaust survivors are treated like a special population in Israel, and we wanted to be sensitive. They have already been traumatized, and we did not want to traumatize them again.”

More from The New York Times here.

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