Family history of cancer 'increases risk of other cancers too'

25 July 2013

A family history of certain types of cancer is already known to affect people's risk of developing that same form of the disease, but new research suggests it may also increase their chances of receiving another type of cancer diagnosis.

Researchers in Italy, Switzerland and France looked at 12,000 cases of cancer that were diagnosed between 1991 and 2009, as well as 11,000 cancer-free individuals.

They found that people with a close family history of cancer of the larynx had a 3.3-fold increased risk of developing mouth and pharyngeal cancer.

People who had a first-degree relative with breast cancer had a 2.3-fold increased risk of ovarian cancer, while those with a family history of bladder cancer were 3.4 times more likely to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis.

The findings are published in the Annals of Oncology and "point to several potential cancer syndromes that appear among close relatives and that indicate the presence of genetic factors influencing multiple cancer sites", according to Dr Eva Negri from the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan.

The researcher also suggested that some of the observed associations between different cancers may have been due to shared environmental risk factors, such as a family tendency to smoke and drink.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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