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Family History of Colorectal Cancer May be Positive Prognostic Factor (Interview with Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH)
Family History of Colorectal Cancer May be Positive Prognostic Factor (Interview with Jennifer Chan, MD, MPH)

(June 3, 2008 - Insidermedicine) The presence of a family history of colorectal cancer may be a positive prognostic factor among patients with the condition undergoing chemotherapy, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Here are some screening recommendations from the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

•    For those with a first-degree relative affected with colorectal cancer or an adenomatous polyp at age >60 years, or two second-degree relatives affected with colorectal cancer the risk is the same as average risk but screening should start at age 40 years

•    For those with two or more first-degree relatives with colon cancer, or a single first-degree relative with colon cancer or adenomatous polyps diagnosed at an age <60 years: Colonoscopy should be performed every 5 years, beginning at age 40 years or 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis in the family, whichever comes first

•    For those with  one second-degree or any third-degree relative with colorectal cancer their risk is the same as average

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston explored the association between family history and prognosis among 1,087 patients with stage III colon cancer who were receiving supplemental chemotherapy. Patients provided information on their family history of the disease and were followed up for a median of 5.6 years.

Having a family history of the disease was associated with a 26% reduced risk of cancer recurrence and a 25% reduced risk of death. Those with two or more family members with a history of colorectal cancer had a 51% reduced risk of recurrence or death.

We had a chance to speak with Dr. Jennifer Chan from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who gave us some further insight into this study.

Today' research suggests that, with the exception of rare, well-characterized hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes, inherited colorectal cancer may reflect a distinct form of the disease with a relatively positive prognosis.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.