Lifetime Data Analysis

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 210–233 | Cite as

Estimating heritability for cause specific mortality based on twin studies

  • Thomas H. Scheike
  • Klaus K. Holst
  • Jacob B. Hjelmborg


There has been considerable interest in studying the magnitude and type of inheritance of specific diseases. This is typically derived from family or twin studies, where the basic idea is to compare the correlation for different pairs that share different amount of genes. We here consider data from the Danish twin registry and discuss how to define heritability for cancer occurrence. The key point is that this should be done taking censoring as well as competing risks due to e.g.  death into account. We describe the dependence between twins on the probability scale and show that various models can be used to achieve sensible estimates of the dependence within monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs that may vary over time. These dependence measures can subsequently be decomposed into a genetic and environmental component using random effects models. We here present several novel models that in essence describe the association in terms of the concordance probability, i.e., the probability that both twins experience the event, in the competing risks setting. We also discuss how to deal with the left truncation present in the Nordic twin registries, due to sampling only of twin pairs where both twins are alive at the initiation of the registries.


Cause specific hazards Competing risks Delayed entry Left truncation Heritability Survival analysis 



We appreciate constructive and useful comments from the Associate editor and two referees that have improved the presentation of our paper considerably and have raised several interesting issues. We thank our collaborators at the NorTwinCan consortia for stimulating discussions about the twin data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas H. Scheike
    • 1
  • Klaus K. Holst
    • 1
  • Jacob B. Hjelmborg
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiostatisticsUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  2. 2.Department of BiostatisticsUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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