Health behaviors in patients and families with hereditary colorectal cancer.

Department of Behavioral Science, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery 06/2012; 25(2):111-7. DOI: 10.1055/s-0032-1313782
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It is estimated that 5 to 10% of all colorectal cancer (CRC) cases are attributed to a hereditary cause. The primary hereditary cancer syndromes that confer an increased risk for colorectal cancers are Lynch syndrome/hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Through genetic testing, health care providers can identify patients and families who carry gene mutations and subsequently are at a substantially greater risk for developing colorectal cancer than the general population. Genetic testing provides risk information not only about an individual patient, but also his or her biological relatives. A variety of risk-reduction behaviors (including screening, surgery, and health and lifestyle behaviors) have been examined in Lynch syndrome and FAP populations. The research indicates that screening behaviors are less than optimal, although the rates vary from study to study. Prophylactic colectomy is the primary course of treatment for individuals who test positive for a FAP mutation, but the results are inconclusive for cancer-unaffected Lynch syndrome mutation carriers. Although research suggests that the adoption of healthy lifestyles and behaviors (e.g., diet, physical activity, weight control, smoking cessation, limited alcohol consumption) could have a favorable impact on colon cancer burden, there is minimal data on how these behaviors may moderate cancer risk among those at risk of hereditary colon cancer. To date, we know very little about the actual health and lifestyle behaviors of those at risk of hereditary colon cancer. Genetic testing and counseling at risk individuals may resolve uncertainty about their personal and familial cancer risk and provide information to guide and personalize decisions about their future health care.

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Allison M. Burton‐Chase