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Prevalence of family history of colorectal cancer in the general population. BJS 2005; 92: 1161-1164.

Published: 4th July 2005

Authors: R. J. Mitchell, H. Campbell, S. M. Farrington, D. H. Brewster, M. E. M. Porteous, M. G. Dunlop et al.

Background

Robust estimates of the prevalence of a family history of colorectal cancer in the general population are essential to inform planning of provision for colonoscopic surveillance and for clinical genetics services. However, there is a paucity of high‐quality data.

Method

Computerized record linkage was used to assess systematically the family history of 160 cancer‐free community subjects and thereby provide prevalence data that are independent of participant recall. The data set comprised 2664 first‐ and second‐degree relatives of study subjects, with 148 068 years at risk.

Results

Of people in the 30–70 years age range, 9·4 (95 per cent confidence interval (c.i.) 5·8 to 14·9) per cent had a first‐degree relative affected by colorectal cancer, and 28·8 (95 per cent c.i. 22·3 to 36·2) per cent had an affected first‐ or second‐degree relative. Between 0 and 3·1 per cent of study subjects merited colonic surveillance, depending on the stringency of the guidelines used.

Conclusion

An appreciable proportion of the general population has a relative affected by colorectal cancer, sufficient to merit screening under certain criteria. In the absence of good‐quality evidence supporting colonoscopic surveillance in groups at moderate risk, these data directly inform the planning of services for people with a family history of colorectal cancer. However, the clinical risk and financial implications of screening should be taken into account. Copyright © 2005 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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