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Edited by H O Adami, D Hunter, D Trichopoulos. Oxford University Press, 2002. Vol 33 in the Series “Monographs in Epidemiology and Biostatistics”. (Pp 599; £50, €75). ISBN 0-19-510969-4.
Multiauthored books often look like an incongruous pastiche and taste like an inadroitly cooked panaché de légumes. Not this one: the editors visibly put a lot of effort to achieve a uniform structure and style. Such coherence is particularly welcome in a textbook; otherwise, the main purpose of such book is defeated when its covers just bind a heterogeneous assortment of reviews. While written by an additional 21 contributors—mostly from Boston, Stockholm, and Athens—the fact that at least one of the editors coauthored each and every chapter shows and pays off.
Part I takes about 110 pages, and it covers: global burden of cancer, biological origins, genetic epidemiology of cancer (including a brief glossary), biomarkers, and essential epidemiological concepts and definitions (also with a glossary). Part II expands some 460 pages, and it deals with the epidemiology of the following sites or types of malignant tumours: oral and pharyngeal cancer, oesophageal, stomach, colorectal, liver and biliary tract, pancreatic, cancer of the lung, larynx and pleura, skin cancer, breast, cervical, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular, urinary bladder, thyroid cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, and the leukaemias. All these chapters open with a brief introduction and a brief clinical synopsis (main clinicopathological features of the cancer at stake). Each chapter then continues with three main sections: descriptive epidemiology, genetic and molecular epidemiology, and the more classic risk factors; the latter are discussed in the same order throughout these chapters. There are plenty of figures and tables.
Perhaps the strongest common success of all chapters is that they enable the reader to understand the causes of each cancer—and, hence, they better equip him or her to undertake or to assess primary prevention efforts. The careful reader will also be in an excellent position to critically appraise the current, fascinating expansion of knowledge on the biological mechanisms of cancer occurrence (such as gene-environment interactions), no matter whether such knowledge stems from classic epidemiological approaches or from the increasingly epidemiology integrated, related disciplines.
While the text is easily comprehensible by someone who knows little about cancer, experienced researchers will also use it: at the very least, to check how other experts summarise the state of the art in specific areas. This true textbook will hence be useful, pleasant, and rewarding to students of epidemiology and public health, medicine, and other health and life sciences. It will similarly work for researchers and health practitioners, clinicians, and public health professionals.