The occurrence of multiple primary cancers (MPC) is thought to reflect increased cancer susceptibility in patients due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Here we conducted a retrospective review of 2,894 consecutive patients evaluated at a single institution and identified 31 (1.14%) individuals with a history of three or more primary cancers, then analyzed the genetic and environmental influences associated with their propensity for developing malignancies. We found that 35.5% of patients had a hereditary cancer syndrome (HCS), with high penetrance HCS in 72.7% of cases, suggesting that monogenic causes underly a significant proportion of triple primary cancer risk. Analysis of cancer frequencies found that the diagnosis of breast cancer was associated with a significantly lower likelihood of HCS, while the diagnosis of colorectal, prostate, and pancreas cancer was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of HCS. Comparison of HCS-positive and HCS-negative patients revealed similar demographic characteristics, mean age at first diagnosis, and family history of cancer. Moreover, no significant differences in lifestyle behaviors, occupational exposures, chronic health conditions, or treatment with chemotherapy and radiation were observed between HCS-positive and -negative groups, though outliers in tobacco smoking, as well as systemic treatment after both first and second primary cancers were observed. These findings indicate a robust contribution of HCS to cancer susceptibility among patients with triple primary cancers while environmental influences were less evident. This emphasizes the need for larger MPC cohorts incorporating additional genetic and environmental factors to more comprehensively characterize drivers of cancer risk.

Prevention Relevance:

In patients with three or more primary cancers, genetic predisposition explained a significant proportion of cases; however, treatment history, lifestyle habits, and other exposures appeared to play a less significant role. This highlights the value of early genetic screening and the need to develop more sensitive markers of cancer susceptibility.

See related Spotlight, p. 193

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