Cancer incidences in Europe related to mortalities, and ethnohistoric, genetic, and geographic distances

Robert R. Sokal, Neal L. Oden, Michael S. Rosenberg, Barbara A. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that geographic differences in cancer mortalities in Europe are related to (in order of importance): geographic distances (reflecting environmental differences), ethnohistoric distances (encompassing cultural and genetic attributes), and genetic distances of the populations in the areas studied. In this study, we analyzed the relations of the same three factors to European incidences of 45 male and 47 female cancers. Differences in cancer incidences are correlated moderately, first with geographic distances, and then with genetic distances, but not at all with ethnohistoric distances. Comparing these findings to the earlier ones for cancer mortalities, we note the reversal in the importance of ethnohistory and genetics, and the generally lower correlations of incidence differences with the three putatively causal distance matrices. A path diagram combining both studies demonstrates the lack of cultural carcinogenic effects, but suggests cultural influences on procedures such as the registration of deaths in different political entities. Additionally, the relatively large correlation between ethnohistoric distances and mortality differences is caused by common factors behind the correlation of ethnohistoric and geographic distances. Geographic proximity results in similar ethnohistories. The direct effects of genetic distances are negligible and only their common effects with geographic distances play a role, accounting for the weak to negligible influence of genetics on incidence and mortality differences. Apparently, the genetic systems available to us do not substantially affect cancer incidence or mortality. We present indirect evidence that international differences in the quality of cancer rate data are greater in mortalities than in incidences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6067-6072
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 23 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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