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Familial colorectal cancer risk also for half siblings

Familial colorectal cancer risk also for half siblings


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Familial colorectal cancer: risk for half-siblings is underestimated

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in Germany. It has long been known that there is an increased risk of developing illness if there are cases of colon cancer in the family. Researchers have now found that half-siblings also have a significantly increased risk of illness.

Third most common cancer worldwide

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide. Every year around 1.8 million people contract this type of cancer around the world, about half of them die from it. In Germany, colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer after prostate and lung cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death for women after breast cancer. It has long been known that the risk of illness is increased if there are cases of colon cancer in the family. Researchers have now found that this danger also exists for half-siblings.

Family risk of disease

It has long been known that first-degree relatives such as children or siblings of colorectal cancer patients are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer themselves.

According to health experts, this cancer risk can be significantly reduced with regular screening. Early detection can save lives.

The cancer prevention recommendation for everyone who has colorectal cancer in the family is therefore: Prevention begins ten years before the diagnosis of the youngest affected family member, but at the latest at 40 to 45 years.

If the family history indicates that there is an inherited risk of colon cancer in the family, it is recommended that first-degree relatives have a colonoscopy regularly from the age of 25.

Degrees of relationship have not yet been examined in detail

Mahdi Fallah, head of the "Risk-adapted Prevention" working group in the Preventive Oncology Department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, said in a message:

"Although it has long been known that there is a connection between family stress and an increased risk of developing colon cancer itself, the individual degrees of relationship have not been examined in detail so far."

Researchers from the DKFZ and NCT Heidelberg (a joint institution of the DKFZ, the Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and the German Cancer Aid), together with colleagues from Sweden, Japan and the USA, evaluated the world's largest data set on patients with family cancer risk.

Over 16 million people from Sweden are included in this data set. Of these, 173,796 people developed colon cancer in the course of their lives.

Based on the family trees and family history, the scientists were able to draw conclusions about the risk of illness of relatives of the first and second degree.

Risk for half siblings significantly higher than expected

The results, which were published in the specialist magazine "BMJ", showed that siblings of colon cancer patients are 1.7 times more likely to develop colon cancer than siblings from families without colon cancer cases.

The researchers calculated a comparable risk for half-siblings. Half-siblings thus have a higher risk of illness than other second-degree relatives, such as a grandparent or an aunt.

According to the information, people in their families have several first and second degree relatives, the highest risk of developing the disease.

"We were able to demonstrate that the family risk for half-siblings from colon cancer patients was significantly higher than previously expected," said Fallah.

"Half-siblings should therefore be classified as first-degree relatives in the family history in the risk assessment for colorectal cancer," said the expert.

"At the same time, the results also show that in addition to genes, common living conditions and living habits within families also play a major role in the familial clustering of colon cancer, because otherwise one would expect significant differences in the risk for" full siblings "and half siblings," added Hermann Brenner, head of the Preventive Oncology Department at the DKFZ. (ad)

Author and source information


Video: Colon Cancer: Prevention and Screening (June 2022).