Skip to content

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Colon Cancer Survival Has Family Link

Genes That Increase Risk May Improve Prognosis
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 3, 2008 -- Advanced colon cancer patients with a family history of the disease are more likely to be cured with treatment than patients with no family link, new research suggests.

Compared to patients with no family history, those with relatives who've had colorectal cancer were less likely to die or have colorectal cancer recur. And the more relatives they had with a history of colorectal cancer, the better their odds.

The findings suggest that as yet unidentified genetic influences are associated with both an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer and an improved prognosis for surviving the disease, Jennifer A. Chan, MD, PhD, who led the study, tells WebMD.

The study appears in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association.

"This is reassuring for patients with a family history, but it could also be important for treatment," says Chan, who is an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "If we are able to identify the factors associated with family risk and improved prognosis, this could help guide treatment decisions in the future."

Greater Risk, Better Survival

As many as one in five colorectal cancer patients have a close family link to the disease, and having a first-degree relative such as a parent, sibling, or child with the cancer is associated with a twofold increase in risk.

While it is clear that family history is an important risk factor for developing colorectal cancer, its influence on recurrence and survival are not well understood.

In their effort to change this, Chan and colleagues from Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute followed 1,087 patients with stage III colon cancer who were treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy.

A total of 195 patients (18%) reported a history of colorectal cancer in one or more first-degree relatives.

During an average of 5 1/2 years of follow up, 29% patients with a family history of the disease and 38% of patients with no family history either died of their disease or experienced disease recurrence.

Patients with a family history were 26% less likely to have their disease recur than patients with no afflicted close family members.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
 
bread
ARTICLE
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
VIDEO
 
New Colorectal Treatments
VIDEO
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
FEATURE
 
Cancer Facts Quiz
QUIZ
Virtual Colonoscopy
VIDEO
 
Picture of the Colon
ANATOMY
Vitamin D
SLIDESHOW
 

WebMD Special Sections