An approach to studies of cancer subsequent to clusters of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): use of data from the Nevada State Cancer Registry

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been increasingly

associated with immune dysregulation, including depressed

natural killer cell activity; this phenomenon is associated

with increased susceptibility to cancer. Although anecdotal

reports have suggested an association between CFS and cancer,

particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and brain cancer, there

has been no a priori justification for evaluating such an

association and no consideration of relevant parameters, such

as length of latent period vs. tumor type. We reviewed data

from the Nevada State Cancer Registry subsequent to a reported

outbreak of a CFS-like illness in Nevada that occurred during

1984-1986. We concentrated on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and

brain/CNS tumors, with particular emphasis on persons 15-34

and 35-54 years of age. An upward trend in the incidence of

brain/CNS tumors, which could be related to a national upward

trend for this disease, was noted. No consistent trends were

noted for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because of the difficulties

inherent in studies of cancer subsequent to various exposures,

we evaluated the methodology for determining an association

between outbreaks of CFS-like disease and cancer. We propose

several approaches that should be considered in future studies

for investigation of possible associations between CFS and

cancer, including expected latent periods for specific tumors.

Levine PH, Atherton M, Fears T, Hoover R

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