Family History and Risk for Colon Cancer

Anil Rustgi, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Question:

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
I am 31-year-old male. I have been reading a lot about hereditary colon cancer due to some recent symptoms of lower right-sided abdominal cramps. My family history is both grandparents on fathers side diagnosed at age 50-55. Great grandfather on father's side diagnosed at 75. Mom has no colon cancer history. So far my father and his siblings (4 total / ages 45-55) are free of the disease and free of polyps. I had a flex-sigmoid at age 29, which was clear. Would I constitute a possible or likely "familial" situation?
Thank you so much.

Answer:

Anil Rustgi, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology and the T. Grier Miller Associate Professor of Medicine and Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

The lifetime risk of colon cancer is increased for first-degree (parents, sibling, children) relatives and to a lesser extent for second-degree relatives (grandparents, aunts/uncles), although still increased. Thus, you are at somewhat increased risk. Although it is good that your father and aunts/uncles have yet to manifest polyps or cancer. You should have a screening colonoscopy at some point, and if that is normal, your gastroenterologist can determine the frequency.

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