The immune response is a highly complex system that has developed to protect individuals from morbidity and mortality induced by exogenous exposures, including infections. As summarized in this chapter, alterations in the immune response, whether due to immunosuppressive or immune stimulatory effects, have important consequences with respect to cancer risk. Individuals with inherited immunological defects, acquired immunological deficiencies, chronic unresolved infections, and autoimmune conditions are at considerably increased risk for multiple cancers, suggesting an important role for the immune response in the development of cancer at various anatomical sites. Studies that have directly evaluated immunogenetic and immunological factors and cancer risk are beginning to identify specific immunological risk factors associated with individual cancers. Furthermore, technological advances have made it increasingly feasible to evaluate specific immunological factors and their relationship to cancer risk, suggesting that additional insights are likely in the coming years.
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