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Breast and bowel cancers diagnosed in people 'too young to have cancer': A blueprint for research using family and twin studies.

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Hopper, John L 
MacInnis, Robert J 
Dowty, James G 


Young breast and bowel cancers (e.g., those diagnosed before age 40 or 50 years) have far greater morbidity and mortality in terms of years of life lost, and are increasing in incidence, but have been less studied. For breast and bowel cancers, the familial relative risks, and therefore the familial variances in age-specific log(incidence), are much greater at younger ages, but little of these familial variances has been explained. Studies of families and twins can address questions not easily answered by studies of unrelated individuals alone. We describe existing and emerging family and twin data that can provide special opportunities for discovery. We present designs and statistical analyses, including novel ideas such as the VALID (Variance in Age-specific Log Incidence Decomposition) model for causes of variation in risk, the DEPTH (DEPendency of association on the number of Top Hits) and other approaches to analyse genome-wide association study data, and the within-pair, ICE FALCON (Inference about Causation from Examining FAmiliaL CONfounding) and ICE CRISTAL (Inference about Causation from Examining Changes in Regression coefficients and Innovative STatistical AnaLysis) approaches to causation and familial confounding. Example applications to breast and colorectal cancer are presented. Motivated by the availability of the resources of the Breast and Colon Cancer Family Registries, we also present some ideas for future studies that could be applied to, and compared with, cancers diagnosed at older ages and address the challenges posed by young breast and bowel cancers.


Publication status: Published

Funder: Suicide Prevention Australia


DEPTH, ICE CRISTAL, ICE FALCON, VALID, breast cancer, causation, colorectal cancer, familial confounding, family data, statistical methods, twin studies

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Genet Epidemiol

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National Health and Medical Research Council (GNT2017373, GNT1178027)
National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) (2020R1A2C2101041, 2023R1A2C2002925)