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Changes in family history of cancer can impact screening recommendations
Date:7/12/2011

Among the most important determinants of an individual's risk of cancer is family history, and the details of that history whether and at what ages close relatives were diagnosed with particular tumors can affect recommendations for screening examinations such as colonoscopies and mammograms. In the July 13 Journal of the American Medical Association a multi-institutional research team reports that changes in family history significant enough to alter screening recommendations are common in adults aged 30 to 50.

"We wanted to find out whether changes in a person's family history of cancer, over time, would affect the screening schedule and tests recommended by standard guidelines," says Dianne Finkelstein, PhD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Biostatistics Center, corresponding author of the JAMA report. "The results of our study could guide how often health care providers should update their patients' family histories."

The study investigators are all members of the National Cancer Institute-funded Cancer Genetics Network (CGN), which involves 14 academic medical centers in the U.S. Established in 1998, the CGN is a registry of thousands of individuals with a personal or family history of cancer. The researchers analyzed both the detailed family history information participants reported upon enrollment in the network which reflected their cancer risk up until that time and the updated information they provided on an annual basis over an average of eight years.

Analysis focused on colorectal, breast and prostate cancer, since the established screening guidelines for those common tumors can be affected by family history. For example, a 42-year-old woman with no family history of colorectal cancer would be recommended to have her first colonoscopy at age 50 and a repeat exam every 10 years. But if her 46-year-old brother is diagnosed with that cancer, the guidelines would call for her to have an
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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