Cancer, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality in Iraqi- and Swedish-born individuals in Sweden: the MEDIM cohort study

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Immigrants from the Middle East to Sweden have a twice as high prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and obesity as native-born Swedes. Both obesity and T2D have been linked to increased incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality (ACM); however, data on differences between ethnicities are scarce. In a population-based cohort we aimed to study the impact of Middle Eastern and European ethnicity on ACM, cancer- and CVD related mortality, incidence of cancer and CVD in an eight-year follow-up study. Methods: People born in Iraq or Sweden, who were 30-75 years of age, were invited from 2010 to 2012 to participate in the population based MEDIM study including a health exam, fasting blood sampling, assessment of insulin secretion and action (through oral glucose tolerance test) and questionnaires assessing history of CVD, cancer and T2D. Register data were retrieved from baseline until the 31st of December 2018 from the Swedish National Patient Register and Cause of Death register regarding CVD diagnosis, cancer diagnosis and cause of death. Information regarding diabetes diagnosis was retrieved from the National Diabetes Register. Individuals with a history of cancer or CVD at baseline were excluded. Cox regression analysis was assessed to study the adjusted hazard ratios (HR) for the relationships between ethnicity and ACM, cancer events, CVD events, death from cancer, and death from CVD, with adjustments for age, sex, anthropometrical measures, T2D and lifestyle. A total of 1398 Iraqi- and 757 Swedish-born residents participated in the study. ACM was considerably lower in Iraqi- compared to Swedish-born individuals HR 0.32 (95% CI 0.13-0.79) (p < 0.05). Furthermore, cancer related morbidity and mortality HR 0.39 (0.22-0.69) (p < 0.01) as well as CVD related morbidity and mortality HR 0.56 (0.33-0.95) (p < 0.05) were lower in the Iraqi-born group compared to the Swedish-born group for. The differences in mortality and cancer rates across ethnicities are not fully explained by anthropometric, environmental or metabolic measures but lie elsewhere. Further studies are needed to increase the understanding of contributing mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6129
Pages (from-to)13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Apr 15

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

Free keywords

  • Humans
  • Sweden/epidemiology
  • Iraq/epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
  • Cardiovascular Diseases/epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Obesity
  • Neoplasms/epidemiology
  • Risk Factors


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