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Cancer Genetics

Family History and Risk fo Cancer

09/14/2007

Question:

I have different types of cancer that run on both sides of my family. My father had bowel cancer, his brother had cancer, my cousin had cervical cancer. On my mothers side my grandfather had cancer, and my aunt had breast cancer. My family doctor told me that I was not at a higher risk of getting bowel cancer because my father was 70 when he got it. To know if you are at a higher risk of cancers due to genetics how does age play a factor in it? Is there an age cut off where you say they got cancer because they are old?

Answer:

Family history is certainly important in determining cancer risk, but the type of cancer each family member had as well as the age of onset are important factors.  It would be important to know what type of cancer your father's brother had, but if it was not colon cancer, then your risks are probably only slightly elevated over the general population risk--having a father with colon cancer does increase your risk, but it is less likely to be genetic if only one person had colon cancer and was not under age 50 when diagnosed. 

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Response by:

Doreen M Agnese, MD Doreen M Agnese, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University