Parent cancer increases family risk

Cancer of the parents in old age also increases the risk of cancer in the offspring

Even if parents only develop cancer later in life, their children are at a significantly higher risk of cancer, according to the latest announcement from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. Until now, doctors assumed that the connection only applies to cancer cases at a young age, but the DKFZ experts have now been able to demonstrate that cancer in old age is also associated with an increasing likelihood of cancer in the offspring. The researchers published their results in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

According to a message from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, the risk of cancer increases with age. "As people live longer and longer, they also get cancer more and more often," continues the DKFZ. Until now, however, only cancer in early years was a clear alarm signal regarding an increased hereditary cancer risk. According to the DKFZ scientists, the risk of illness of one's own children - referred to as family risk - also increases if the parents only develop cancer in old age.

Eight million data sets evaluated to determine cancer risk The scientists of the German Cancer Research Center evaluated "almost eight million entries from the Swedish family cancer database (SFCD)" in a comprehensive study to check the family cancer risk, reports the DKFZ. The data came from the years 1961 to 2008. The researchers' result is clear: Even if parents "only developed cancer at the age of 70 to 89 years", the children were exposed to a significantly increased risk of cancer. With regard to colorectal cancer, this means that if a parent is ill between the ages of 70 and 79, there is a 1.9-fold increased risk for the offspring to also develop it until the age of 60. Breast cancer "results in a 1.8 times higher risk," the DKFZ scientists continued. Even if the parents only become ill at the age of over 90 years, there is still an increased risk for some types of cancer.

Avoid risk factors, use preventive examinations In the case of particularly early cancer of a parent (before the age of 40), the risk increase in the offspring is significantly more dramatic. In such cases, the risk of illness for colorectal cancer increases by 9.9 times and for breast cancer by 5.2 times, according to the DKFZ. The scientists around Dr. Elham Kharazmi believe that "genetic factors are the basis for familial cancer cases" and hope that their findings will help to "deepen knowledge about the genetics of cancer." In this way, "family members with a genetic predisposition to Cancer consciously avoid risk factors and use preventive examinations regularly, ”concludes the DKFZ. (fp)

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