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Study says cancer gene screenings need to be expanded

Study says cancer gene screenings need to be expanded (Courtesy: The Ohio State University)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A study released Thursday, December 15, has surprising results when it comes to what's in a person’s genes and their cancer risk.

The study was taking a look at those who were at higher risk for certain cancers like colon cancer. Traditionally to have genetic testing counselors look for certain family traits and screen for a small number of genes. The conclusions that were published in Thursday’s Journal Oncology said people may need to expand that testing.

The study involved more than 450 patients from the state of Ohio. Many who participated in the TriState were known to have a collection of risk factors for cancer called Lynch Syndrome.

That means, “There's an inherited gene passed on through either the mother or father passed on to children. And if the gene, or an abnormal version of the gene, it increases their risk for colon and sometimes other cancers such as uterine, ovarian, stomach; a variety but the primary cancer is colon,” said Courtney Rice of TriHealth.

Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center found one in six patients diagnosed with colon cancer had at least one inherited genetic mutation. Under current screening guidelines a lot of those patients would never be found. Usually to suggest testing genetic counselors such as Rice said they look for certain traits.

“So the things that I would look for if I'm working with a family is if there are people in the family are if there are colon cancers diagnosed at age 50 and younger. If there are multiple people closely related or with some of these associated such as colon and uterine, we look for multiple generations.”

The study showed health officials may need to broaden that criteria and the number of genes tested so people at risk don't get missed. The hope is if people find out they have a gene mutation linked to colon or another cancer, they could start screenings earlier than traditionally suggested.

A lot of that screening also allows for intervention to fight cancer; for example, with a colonoscopy people can also remove pre-cancerous polyps to keep from developing this cancer.

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