Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption as risk factors for thymoma – A European case-control study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: Hardly anything is known about the aetiology of thymoma. This paper presents data regarding tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption in relation to thymoma from the first case-control study performed on this rare tumour. Methods: A European multi-centre case-control study including incident cases aged 35–69 years with thymoma between 1995 and 1997, was conducted in seven countries. A set of controls, used in seven parallel case-control studies by the same research group was used, including population-based controls from five countries and hospital controls with colon cancer from two countries. Altogether 103 cases, accepted by a reference pathologist, 712 colon cancer controls, and 2071 population controls were interviewed. Results: Tobacco smoking was moderately related with thymoma (OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.9–2.2), and a tendency to dose-response was shown (p = 0.04), with an increased risk for heavy smokers defined as ≥41 pack-years (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1–3.9). A high consumption of spirits defined as ≥25 g of alcohol per day was associated with an increased risk of thymoma (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.1–5.4), whereas no association was found with beer or wine. Conclusions: Tobacco smoking and a high intake of spirits were indicated as risk factors for thymoma.


  • Mikael Eriksson
  • Linda Kaerlev
  • Preben Johansen
  • Noemia Afonso
  • Wolfgang Ahrens
  • Altamiro Costa-Pereira
  • Pascal Guénel
  • Karl Heinz Jöckel
  • Agustin Llopis Gonzalez
  • Franco Merletti
  • Maria Morales Suárez-Varela
  • Brigitte Trétarre
  • Gun Wingren
  • Lorenzo Richiardi
  • Svend Sabroe
External organisations
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • Odense University Hospital
  • Aalborg University Hospital
  • Instituto Português de Oncologia do Porto Francisco Gentil (IPO)
  • Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology - BIPS GmbH
  • University of Porto
  • Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health (CESP)
  • University of Paris-Sud
  • University Hospital Essen
  • Valencia University Hospital
  • CIBER Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP)
  • University of Turin
  • Linköping University
  • University of Padova
  • Aarhus University
  • Skåne University Hospital
  • Registre des Tumeurs de l'Hérault
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


  • Alcohol, Case-control study, Risk factors, Thymoma, Thymus cancer, Tobacco smoking
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch