A cross-national perspective of migration and cancer: incidence of five major cancer types among resettlers from the former Soviet Union in Germany and ethnic Germans in Russia

BACKGROUND:

Few studies compared cancer incidence among migrants both to their host countries and to their population of origin. We aimed to compare cancer incidence of ethnic Germans who migrated from the former Soviet Union to Germany (resettlers) to those living in Russia as well as to the German and the Russian general populations.

METHODS:

The cancer registry of North Rhine-Westphalia identified incident cases of stomach, colorectal, lung, breast and prostate cancer in resettlers and the general population of the administrative district of Münster (Germany) between 2004 and 2013. The Tomsk cancer registry collected the same data in ethnic Germans and the general population of the Tomsk region (Russia). We used standardised incidence rate ratios (SIRs) to compare rates of resettlers and ethnic Germans with the respective general populations.

RESULTS:

The total number of person-years under risk was 83,289 for ethnic Germans, 8,006,775 for the population of Tomsk, 219,604 for resettlers, and 20,516,782 for the population of Münster. Incidence of the five investigated cancer types among ethnic Germans did not differ from incidence of the general population of Tomsk. Compared to the general population of Tomsk, incidence among resettlerswas higher for colorectal cancer in both sexes (females: SIR 1.45 [95% CI 1.14-1.83], males: SIR 1.56 [95% CI 1.23-1.97]), breast cancer in females (SIR 1.65 [95% CI 1.40-1.95]), and prostate cancer (SIR 1.64 [95% CI 1.34-2.01]). Incidence rates of these cancertypes among resettlers were more similar to rates of the general population of Münster. Incidence of stomach and lung cancer did not differ between resettlers and the general population of Tomsk.

CONCLUSIONS:

After an average stay of 15 years, we observed that incidence of colorectal, breast and prostate cancer among resettlers converged to levels of the general population of Münster. Resettler’s incidence of stomach and lung cancer, however, was comparable to incidence in their population of origin. Causes must be investigated in subsequent analytical studies.