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The Nordic countries have comprehensive, population-based health and medical registries linkable on individually unique personal identity codes, enabling complete long-term follow-up. The aims of this study were to describe the NorTwinCan cohort established in 2010 and assess whether the cancer mortality and incidence rates among Nordic twins are similar to those in the general population. We analyzed approximately 260,000 same-sexed twins in the nationwide twin registers in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Cancer incidence was determined using follow-up through the national cancer registries. We estimated standardized incidence (SIR) and mortality (SMR) ratios with 95% confidence intervals (CI) across country, age, period, follow-up time, sex and zygosity. More than 30,000 malignant neoplasms have occurred among the twins through 2010. Mortality rates among twins were slightly lower than in the general population (SMR 0.96; CI 95% [0.95, 0.97]), but this depends on information about zygosity. Twins have slightly lower cancer incidence rates than the general population, with SIRs of 0.97 (95% CI [0.96, 0.99]) in men and 0.96 (95% CI [0.94, 0.97]) in women. Testicular cancer occurs more often among male twins than singletons (SIR 1.15; 95% CI [1.02, 1.30]), while cancers of the kidney (SIR 0.82; 95% CI [0.76, 0.89]), lung (SIR 0.89; 95% CI [0.85, 0.92]) and colon (SIR 0.90; 95% CI [0.87, 0.94]) occur less often in twins than in the background population. Our findings indicate that the risk of cancer among twins is so similar to the general population that cancer risk factors and estimates of heritability derived from the Nordic twin registers are generalizable to the background populations.
Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
The association between birth weight and later life outcomes is of considerable interest in life-course epidemiology. Research often relies on self-reported measures of birth weight, and its validity is consequently of importance. We assessed agreement between self-reported birth weight and official birth records for Norwegian twins born 1967–1974. The intraclass correlation between self-reported birth weight and register-based birth weight was 0.91 in our final sample of 363 twins. It could be expected that 95% of self-reported birth-weight values will deviate from official records within a maximum of +446 grams and a minimum of −478 grams — around a mean deviation of 16 grams. Self-reported birth weight had a sensitivity of 0.78–0.89 and a positive predictive value of 0.59–0.85, and an overall weighted kappa of 0.71. We further assessed agreement by conducting two linear regression models where we respectively regressed self-reported birth weight and register-based birth weight on adult body mass index, a known association. The two models were not significantly different; however, there were different levels of significance in parameter estimates that warrant some caution in using self-reported birth weight. Reliability of self-reported birth weight was also assessed, based on self-reports in another sample of twins born 1935–1960 who had reported their birth weight in two questionnaires 34 years apart. The intraclass correlation was 0.86, which indicates a high degree of reliability. In conclusion, self-reported birth weight, depending on context and age when birth weight was reported, can be cautiously used.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
We describe the importance of the Norwegian Twin Registry (NTR) for research in public health and provide examples from several programs of twin research at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), including the Nordic Twin Study of Cancer, our epigenetics platform, and our large program of research in mental health. The NTR has become an integral component of a national strategy for maximizing the research potential from Norwegian registries and biobank-based studies. The information provided herein builds upon and complements our recent report describing the establishment of the NTR and the cohorts comprising it. Although Norway has a long tradition in twin research, the centralization and administration of the twin data through a single register structure is fairly recent. The NTR was established in 2009 and currently includes 47,989 twins covering birth years 1895–1960 and 1967–1979; 31,440 of these twins have consented to participate in medical research (comprising 5,439 monozygotic pairs, 6,702 dizygotic same-sexed pairs, and 1,655 dizygotic opposite-sexed pairs). DNA from approximately 4,800 twins is banked at the NIPH biobank and new studies continuously add new data to the registry. The value of NTR data is greatly enhanced through record linkage possibilities offered by Norway's many nation-wide registries (medical, demographic, and socio-economic) and several studies are already taking advantage of these linkage opportunities for research.
Norway has a long-standing tradition in twin research, but the data collected in several population-based twin studies were not coordinated centrally or easily accessible to the scientific community. In 2009, the Norwegian Twin Registry was established at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) in Oslo with the purpose of creating a single research resource for Norwegian twin data. As of today, the Norwegian Twin Registry contains 47,989 twins covering birth years 1895–1960 and 1967–1979; 31,440 of these twins consented to participate in health-related research. In addition, DNA from approximately 4,800 of the twins is banked at the NIPH biobank and new studies are continually adding new data to the registry. The value of the Norwegian twin data is greatly enhanced by the linkage opportunities offered by Norway's many nationwide registries, spanning a broad array of medical, demographic, and socioeconomic information.
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