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Family Cancer History Should Be Updated Regularly, Study Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(IRVINE, Calif.) -- A family history of cancer is one of the most important factors for assessing an individual’s own cancer risk.  But when should that history be taken, or how frequently?  

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association identifies periods in life when family cancer history is most likely to change -- and in turn change an individual's own cancer risk -- calling for earlier or more intensive screening.

Researchers at the University of California-Irvine reviewed family data from over 15,000 participants in a U.S. national registry for cancer patients from 1999 to 2009.

They found substantial changes in family history of colorectal, breast and prostate cancers between the ages of 30 and 50.  So the percentage of those recommended for high-risk cancer screening increases from one-and-a-half to three-fold during that age bracket.   

The authors recommend that a family cancer history should therefore be updated at least every five to 10 years to appropriately inform recommendations for cancer screening.

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