Family genetics can determine hair color, whether a person has dimples and many other personal characteristics—including an individual’s risk for certain types of cancer.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. For those people who are of average risk and over 50, the awareness event serves as a great reminder to have a colon cancer screening done. Others who may be at heightened risk for cancer because of family genetics or other factors may want to consider taking additional preventive steps.
The University of Minnesota Health Cancer Risk Management Program partners with people seeking information about their personal cancer risk. Our genetic counselors can provide a comprehensive assessment of a person’s health information and family health history. If needed, we can conduct also genetic screening tests to identify a person’s hereditary cancer risk. Individuals found to be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer or other cancers because of family genetics may need to enroll in a stronger health monitoring program than members of the general population considered to have average risk. We can also provide guidance in this regard.
Wondering whether you may be have an elevated risk of colorectal cancer or other cancers? Ask yourself these questions:
If so, you may want to consider genetic counseling. Genetic counseling can help identify cancer syndromes that can run in families, such as Lynch Syndrome—which was formerly known as Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC). It is estimated that roughly one in 279 people have Lynch syndrome, which is associated with several different types of cancer.
It’s important to know if this runs in your family because Lynch syndrome may put you at heightened risk of several types of cancers, including colon cancer.
The key to success in cancer treatment is early detection. Without early screening and surveillance, we lose that opportunity. We recommend that individuals with Lynch syndrome receive colonoscopies as early as age 20—far earlier than the recommended screening age for the general population. Early colonoscopies enable care providers to find precancerous polyps in the colon and remove them before they progress to cancer. Women with Lynch syndrome also have an elevated risk for ovarian and endometrial cancers. Lynch Syndrome Day is March 22.
It’s important to know if Lynch syndrome runs in your family because you can take active steps to significantly reduce your cancer risks. In addition, genetic testing can clarify whether additional family members are or are not at increased cancer risk.
Our Cancer Risk Management Program helps to coordinate appropriate care, screening and surveillance with a plan that is tailored for each individual needs, based on nationally accepted screening guidelines.