Study: Impact of Holocaust lingers in survivors, pushing up cancer, heart deaths

The harmful impact of the Holocaust on the health of those who survived it continues for decades afterward, causing increased mortality and raising the chances of heart disease or cancer, a Hebrew University study finds.

Researchers analyzed the death records of around 22,000 people who were followed from 1964 to 2016, then compared mortality rates from cancer and heart disease among survivors to those who did not live under Nazi occupation.

Among female survivors, there was a 15 percent higher overall mortality rate and a 17% higher chance of death from cancer, the university says.

Illustrative: A man walks through the gate of the Sachsenhausen Nazi death camp with the phrase ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (work sets you free) in Oranienburg, Germany, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP)

Though the overall mortality for men who survived Nazi persecution was no different from those who did not suffer it, there was a 14% high chance of dying from cancer, and for heart disease mortality the figure jumped to 39%.

“Our research showed that people who experienced life under Nazi rule early in life, even if they were able to successfully migrate to Israel and build families, continued to face higher mortality rates throughout their lives,” says Iaroslav Youssim, one of the authors of the study.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.