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Family History of Colorectal Cancer Improve Survival Chances

People with a family history of colon or rectal cancer may have a smaller risk of having the cancer return or of dying from the disease according to a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers followed nearly 1,100 patients with stage III colon cancer who were being treated with chemotherapy, 195 of whom had at least one close family member who also had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.  Fifty-seven of them had a cancer recurrence or died (29 percent).  Among the 892 patients with no family history, 343 died or had cancer return (38 percent.)

Patients with one family member with colorectal cancer had about a 25 percent reduced risk of recurrence or death than those with no family history.  When there were two or more affected close relatives, risk of dying or having cancer return was cut in half.

The scientists tested tumors for microsatellite instability (MSI) and for proteins associated with mismatch repair genes, two molecular factors that are associated with better survival.  However, family history was independent of MSI and mismatch repair.

Close family members were first-degree relatives — parents, siblings, or children.

Jennifer A. Chan, MD, MPH and her colleagues wrote,

Among patients with stage III colon cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy, a family history of colorectal cancer is associated with a significant reduction in cancer recurrence and death

Watch a video report about the research.

SOURCE: Chan et al,, Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 299, Number 21, June 4, 2008.

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