Cancer diagnosis later in life poses significant risk to offspring

December 20, 2012

Relatives of family members diagnosed with cancer are still at risk of the disease even if the diagnosis came at an older age, suggests a paper published on BMJ website today.

It is known that early onset cancer cases carry more hereditary risk than late onset cases, but little is known about whether any familial component exists in cancer at a very old .

Researchers from the German Cancer Research Centre and Lund University in Sweden therefore took data from the Swedish Family-Cancer Database (the largest one of its kind) on just under eight million offspring and their .

Parents' ages were not limited but offspring were all 0-76 years old. Follow-up was started at birth, immigration date or 1961, whichever came latest. Follow-up ended on year of diagnosis of first cancer, death, emigration or 2008.

Results were adjusted for several factors including age, sex, socioeconomic status, residential area, hospitalisation for obesity, COPD and .

The highest risk was seen in cases whose parents were diagnosed at earlier ages. However, even when parents were affected in old age (80+) and for some cancers in very old age (90+), the risk of the same cancer in offspring was significantly higher than those whose parents were not affected.

Increased risks for each cancer were as follows (in offspring aged 0-76 years): non-Hodgkin lymphoma 1.6%; urinary bladder 2.8%; skin 3.5%; melanoma 4.6%; lung 5%; colorectal 6.4%; breast 8.8% and prostate 30.1%.

In the study population, 35-81% of all familial cancers in parents occurred over 69 years of age (colorectal: 59%, lung: 56%, breast 41%, prostate: 75%, urinary bladder: 62%, and skin cancer: 81%, melanoma: 35%, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: 54%). Therefore, the majority of familial cancers occur at elderly ages.

Attempts to explain familial risks by non-genetic factors were not convincing. Therefore, the researchers concluded that familial risks have largely genetic bases.

The researchers believe that family members (in particular ) may benefit from knowing that they're at increased risk of a particular cancer because it allows them to avoid known modifiable risk factors for that .

Explore further: Breast cancer type linked to paternal cancer

More information: Familial risk of early and late onset cancer: nationwide prospective cohort study, BMJ, 2012.

Related Stories

Breast cancer type linked to paternal cancer

November 28, 2011
The risk of breast cancer is increased by genetic and lifestyle factors such as the inherited BRCA2 gene, age of having first child, or use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). New research published in BioMed Central's ...

Recommended for you

Retaining one normal BRCA gene in breast, ovarian cancers influences patient survival

August 22, 2017
Determining which cancer patients are likely to be resistant to initial treatment is a major research effort of oncologists and laboratory scientists. Now, ascertaining who might fall into that category may become a little ...

Study provides insight into link between two rare tumor syndromes

August 22, 2017
UCLA researchers have discovered that timing is everything when it comes to preventing a specific gene mutation in mice from developing rare and fast-growing cancerous tumors, which also affects young children. This mutation ...

Study identifies miR122 target sites in liver cancer and links a gene to patient survival

August 22, 2017
A new study of a molecule that regulates liver-cell metabolism and suppresses liver-cancer development shows that the molecule interacts with thousands of genes in liver cells, and that when levels of the molecule go down, ...

Zebrafish larvae could be used as 'avatars' to optimize personalized treatment of cancer

August 21, 2017
Portuguese scientists have for the first time shown that the larvae of a tiny fish could one day become the preferred model for predicting, in advance, the response of human malignant tumors to the various therapeutic drugs ...

Scientists discover vitamin C regulates stem cell function, curbs leukemia development

August 21, 2017
Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then ...

Searching for the 'signature' causes of BRCAness in breast cancer

August 21, 2017
Breast cancer cells with defects in the DNA damage repair-genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have a mutational signature (a pattern of base swaps—e.g., Ts for Gs, Cs for As—throughout a genome) known in cancer genomics as "Signature ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.