I have two relatives on my mother’s side who have both had bowel cancer. Does this mean that I have an increased risk of developing cancer and should I be tested? I’m a 34-year-old woman.
Professor David Jayne, Professor of Surgery & Consultant Colorectal Surgeon
Your risk of developing bowel cancer depends on how closely related the affected individuals are to your mother and the age at which they developed bowel cancer. Hereditary bowel cancer is responsible for 5% of all bowel cancer*, with the most common condition being hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
Those individuals at most risk of inheriting this genetic trait have two affected first-degree relatives, one of which must be diagnosed with cancer below the age of 50 years; based on the so-called Amsterdam criteria.
As the affected individuals in your case are not first-degree relatives, then you are less likely to suffer with this condition and your chances of acquiring a hereditary form of bowel cancer are low. However, your risk is probably slightly higher than that of the general population and so it would be prudent to discuss the need for testing with a medical practitioner. Usually, this would involve referral for a colonoscopy; a camera test of the back passage.
* Cancer Research UK website www.cancerresearchuk.org