Background: There are several reasons that someone might be diagnosed with more than one primary cancer. The aim of this analysis was to determine combinations of cancer types that occur more often than expected. The expected values in previous analyses are based on age-and-gender-adjusted risks in the population. However, if cancer in people with multiple primaries is somehow different than cancer in people with a single primary, then the expected numbers should not be based on all diagnoses in the population. Methods: In people with two or more cancer types, the probability that a specific type is diagnosed was determined as the number of diagnoses for that cancer type divided by the total number of cancer diagnoses. If two types of cancer occur independently of one another, then the probability that someone will develop both cancers by chance is the product of the individual probabilities for each type. The expected number of people with both cancers is the number of people at risk multiplied by the separate probabilities for each cancer. We performed the analysis on records of cancer diagnoses in British Columbia, Canada between 1970 and 2004. Results: There were 28,159 people with records of multiple primary cancers between 1970 and 2004, including 1,492 people with between three and seven diagnoses. Among both men and women, the combinations of esophageal cancer with melanoma, and kidney cancer with oral cancer, are observed more than twice as often as expected. Conclusion: Our analysis suggests there are several pairs of primary cancers that might be related by a shared etiological factor. We think that our method is more appropriate than others when multiple diagnoses of primary cancer are unlikely to be the result of therapeutic or diagnostic procedures.

98th AACR Annual Meeting-- Apr 14-18, 2007; Los Angeles, CA