BACKGROUND: For unknown reasons, the age-standardized incidence of testicular cancer has shown a rapid increase in virtually all countries (mostly Western) studied. For populations with a sufficiently long period of cancer registration, this development can be traced back to the first half of this century.
PURPOSE: By evaluating data from six countries with long periods of cancer registration (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the former German Democratic Republic [East Germany], Finland, and Poland), we sought to determine whether the increase in testicular cancer risk follows a birth cohort pattern and, if so, to quantify and compare any birth cohort effects.
METHODS: A total of 30,908 incident cases of testicular cancer, diagnosed from 1945 through 1989 in men who were 20-84 years of age, were identified in population-based cancer registries in the six countries. In addition to performing simple trend analyses, we fitted several Poisson regression models (with the explanatory variables age, time period [calendar time], and birth cohort) to the data. Individual models were estimated by the maximum likelihood method.
RESULTS: The age-standardized incidence of testicular cancer was found to vary among the six populations and, on the basis of total registration data, increased annually at rates ranging from 2.3% (in Sweden) to 5.2% (in East Germany). A comparison of several regression models indicated that birth cohort was a stronger determinant of testicular cancer risk than was calendar time for all six populations. Within each population, little variation in testicular cancer risk was observed for men born between 1880 and 1920; thereafter, the risk began to increase. Among men born in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden between 1930 and 1945 (the period encompassing the Second World War), the increasing trend in risk was interrupted (i.e., a leveling in risk occurred). After 1945, an uninterrupted increase in risk was observed for all six populations. With men born around 1905 as the reference group, the relative risk of testicular cancer for those born around 1965 varied from 3.9 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.7-5.6) in Sweden to 11.4 (95% CI = 8.3-15.5) in East Germany.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: The increasing trend in testicular cancer risk observed for these six populations follows a birth cohort pattern. This distinct risk pattern provides a framework for the identification of specific etiologic factors.
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