Family history bigger risk factor than lifestyle for some cancers

A study from Lund University in Sweden concludes that family history is a greater risk factor than lifestyle for breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.

Published in the European Journal of Cancer, the study reviewed 71,000 adopted people born between 1932 and 1969, looking at both their biological and adoptive parents. This way, researchers could see how genetics played a role even when a person was raised in a different hereditary environment, thus differentiating nature and nurture.

The results showed the adopted parents’ histories had no effect on whether their adopted children developed cancer. However, if a biological parent had cancer, the cancer risk for their children increased by 80 to 100 percent. It also increased the risk of the children developing cancer at a younger age.

Age, time period, gender, geography and education were all taken into consideration. The number of prostate cancer cases was 798, breast cancer cases were 1,230, and colorectal cancer cases were 512. All cancer diagnoses occurred between 1958 and 2010.

The researchers noted that the results reinforce the importance of physicians asking about a patient’s family history when screening for cancers.

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