Study Highlights the Hereditary Risk of Colon Cancer

A recent study shows that having second- or third-degree relatives with colorectal cancer augments the risk of developing the disease, according to the findings of a study published in Cancer Epidemiology. 

In this study, researchers assessed over 1,500 early-onset colon cancer cases in the Utah Cancer Registry, part of the Utah Population Data Base.

Troublingly, study found first-degree relatives of someone diagnosed with early-onset colorectal cancer are six times more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 50, while second-degree relatives are three times likelier and third-degree relatives 1.56 times likelier.

Moreover, the study found that individuals are at a 2.6-fold higher risk of colorectal cancer at any age if they have a first-degree relative with early-onset colon cancer, with the risk risk is 1.96 and 1.3 times greater for second- and third-degree relatives, respectively.  In addition, the risk for all degrees of relatives for early-onset colon cancer is higher than the risk for colon cancer at any age.

“Unique Utah resources, including a decades old National Cancer Institute statewide cancer registry and computerized genealogy data for the majority of the population, made this important collaboration possible,” says Lisa Cannon-Albright, PhD, professor and leader of the genetic epidemiology program in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She is also a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator via a press release about the study.

“Our study provides new insight into the magnitude of risk for more distant relatives of colorectal cancer cases, and in particular, for relatives of cases who were diagnosed before age 50,” says first author Heather Ochs-Balcom, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. “This work is important given the rising rates of early-onset colorectal cancer.”