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Family History Predicts Colon Cancer Survival

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, June 04, 2008 7:44 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, FDA, Colon Cancer, Drug Products

Having a family member with colon cancer makes your chances of cancer greater, but also your chances of survival.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Diagram of the stomach, colon and rectum/ author:  William Crochot


People who have a family history of colon cancer live life in constant fear knowing they are twice as likely to develop colon cancer themselves.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests patients with a family history of colon cancer are actually more likely to survive the disease.

One third of colon cancers are believed to be inherited and approximately 11 percent of patients have two or more relatives with the disease.

Individuals who have first-degree relatives, such as a parent or sibling, with colorectal cancer face about 1 in 10 chances of being diagnosed with colon cancer themselves, compared to 1 in 20 for those with no family history of the disease.

The study, by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, involved 1,087 U.S. stage III colon cancer patients who had undergone chemotherapy and surgery between April 1999 and May 2001. Nearly 18 percent (about 195 patients) of those participating in the study reported having a parent or sibling who shared a history of the disease.

Patients with at least one other family member with the disease had a 28 percent lower risk of the cancer coming back, of a new tumor developing, or dying from the disease during the first 5 ½ years they were followed until March 2007, compared to others in the group.

The risk of death was lower for patients with two or more relatives who have the disease. Those patients had a 51% lower risk of the cancer returning or death.

Those with a family history of colon cancer are advised to undergo colonoscopies and exams more frequently, although closer monitoring did not appear to cause a better survival rate.

Earlier detection however has not been ruled out. While the results are surprising, they also suggest that a genetic predisposition may not only influence colorectal cancer risk but also the patient’s survival.

Researchers also considered lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet and smoking and found no link with increased odds of survival.

153,000 cases of colon and rectal cancer are expected to be diagnosed, this year according to the American Cancer Society. About 50,000 of them will die from the disease. #

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