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Hereditary Cancer Syndrome May Point to Colorectal Cancer Risk

When both colon and rectal cancers are combined, the number of new cases diagnosed each year in the United States climbs to more than 130,000. While many patients are diagnosed later in life, the reality is the disease can and does strike those under the age of 50.

For those diagnosed at or before the age of 35, the culprit may very well be a hereditary cancer syndrome. This genetic link to colorectal cancer may present even if a recent family history includes no evidence of the disease. A recent study into hereditary cancer syndrome incidence rates among those age 35 and under who tested positive for colorectal cancer sheds light on the need for enhanced genetic counseling in these cases.

The results of the new study, considered the largest conducted in the United States to date, were published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Researchers found that more than a third of colorectal cancer patients diagnosed with the disease at the age of 35 or younger had an identifiable hereditary cancer syndrome.
The study was conducted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Researchers there reviewed data related to patients undergoing genetic counseling between 2009 and 2013. Of the 193 cases ultimately reviewed, some 34.7 percent of the patients had tested positive for a hereditary cancer syndrome.

While the use of genetic testing for hereditary cancer syndrome presence to gauge risks may require further evaluation, researchers say all patients at 35 years of age and younger diagnosed with CRC should be referred for genetic counseling.

Colorectal cancer kills an estimated 49,000 people each year. Those at risk for the disease or concerned they are at risk are urged to speak with their healthcare providers. There are a number of screening protocols available that can help determine colorectal cancer presence early.

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