March is Colon Cancer Awareness month. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States and the third most common cancer among men and women. Medical experts hope to take steps towards prevention, starting with early detection.
A recent study published in JAMA Oncology from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center shows there’s a hidden genetic factor to many colorectal cancer diagnoses that most patients don’t even realize they have. It’s known as Lynch Syndrome.
Like BRCA is to breast cancer, Lynch syndrome is passed down genetically through families and dramatically increases a person’s risk for colorectal cancer. The study tested more than 3,000 newly-diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and their at-risk family members for Lynch syndrome. 95 percent of those affected didn’t know they had it.
“One of the keys to beating many types of cancer is catching it early, and the best way to do that is to know a patient’s risk so we can monitor them closely and treat them at the first sign of trouble,” says Heather Hampel, MS, LGC, principal investigator of Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative and licensed genetic counselor at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Through early detection of the condition, Hampel and her team of researchers estimate 639 years of life will be saved.