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Hereditary Colon Cancer: Are There Genetic Markers for Colon Cancer?

written by: Balachandar Radhakrishnan•edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 8/7/2009

Colon cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer. As the name suggests the colon or rectum is the hotspot for development of this cancer. The cancer also has strong genetic factors putting offspring or family members of a patient at risk. Read on to learn more.

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    Colon Cancer

    Cancer is one of the leading ailments affecting developing, as well as developed nations of the world. A cancer is generally an unregulated and accelerated growth of cells that cause multiple complications in the body. Cancerous cells also possess the ability to spread all over the body and cause further cancerous growths. Cancers have been classified into several types depending on the location of their origin, regions they affect and the degree of harm they are capable of inflicting.

    Colon cancer is a more prevalent form of cancer. In developed countries three to five percent of the population could develop colon cancer, and in the US, 14 percent of cancer related deaths is caused by colon cancer. The average age for the onset of colon cancer in the US is 64. As the name suggests colon cancer also termed as colorectal cancer appears as a cancerous growth in the colon or rectum. This growth has the capability to morph into a cancerous condition, though not all such growths turn out to be cancers.

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    Symptoms & Treatment of Colon Cancer

    Symptoms of colon cancer are generally associated with discomfort in the colorectal region. The symptoms may range from rectal bleeding, pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, and/or constipation. The troubling truth about colorectal cancers is that they often fail to produce any observable symptoms until they reach an advanced stage, or have even metastasised. It is this facet of colon cancers that makes preemptive screening and check-ups necessary. Once a person has been diagnosed with colon cancer or polyps, further treatment involves removal of the polyps and intensive follow-up screening to see if there has been any further spreading.

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    Hereditary Colon Cancer

    Colon cancer carries a genetic risk probability. If individuals in your family have been diagnosed with colon cancer that places other family members at a higher risk than the normal population. Reports suggest that 25% of affected patients have a family history of colon cancer occurrences. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HPNCC) are conditions that put family members at a high risk of the disease. Also, if multiple family members are diagnosed with the condition, or if someone is diagnosed at a young age that puts other family members in a high risk state.

    Though we have observations showing us that colon cancer has a strong genetic background, there have been no clear candidates for tackling the disease. No genetic markers or gene alterations are known so far that would allow health professionals to provide suitable genetic testing procedures. Until such data is available we only have observations to go on, such as:-

    • If one sibling or parent has colon cancer - then your risk factor increases 1.7 times compared to the general population
    • With two immediate relatives - 2.7 times the risk.

    So it is imperative that if you are aware of any family member with colon cancer then it is a good idea to get the rest of the family screened for colon cancer probability.

    Suggested Reading:

    http://www.genetichealth.com/Colon_Cancer_Home.shtml

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/genetics/colorectal/healthprofessional