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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Does a family history mean I should get tested for bowel cancer?

    Hi, im a 35 year old male and have a family history of bowel cancer, my grandfather passes away from it and my father regularly has polyps removed. Should be getting tested for it?
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  • Bowel Cancer Australia is the leading community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. We … View Profile

    Thank you for your question about family history and bowel cancer.

    Certainly when you have a history of bowel cancer and polyps within your family, we advise early screening to help with early detection.

    Bowel Cancer Australia recommend people with a family history of bowel cancer  start screening 10 years prior to your close relative's diagnosis age.

     If you have a family history of bowel cancer, or polyps, it is advisable to have regular check-ups and it would be recommended that you talk with your GP about your bowel cancer risk and the best screening options for you.

    Most people who develop bowel cancer have no family history of bowel cancer.  However, having relatives, especially first degree relatives such as parents, brothers, sisters or children with bowel cancer significantly increases your risk of developing the disease. 

    This risk is increased even further in people with a history of bowel cancer in:
    - one or more first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) younger than age 55
    - two or more first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) at any age

    For example, if either of your parents are diagnosed with bowel cancer before age 55, you have a 6-fold increase in the risk of developing the disease.  If two of your close relatives are diagnosed with bowel cancer (at any age), your risk increases by a similar amount.
    Your risk of developing bowel cancer doubles if you have one close relative who is diagnosed with the disease aged 60 or 70.

    In addition to families where bowel cancer “runs in the family”, there are also people who have an inherited, genetic susceptibility to bowel cancer. The two most common inherited syndromes linked with bowel cancers are: Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).

    Information taken from the Bowel Cancer Australia website

    More information on risk factors for bowel cancer is available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website at Bowel Cancer: Risk Factors -

    Kind Regards,
    Bowel Cancer Australia Nurse Adviser

    Please Note: The information provided by Bowel Cancer Australia’s Nurse and Nutritionist Advisory Services is intended for Australian residents as a reference guide only.  It is not a substitute for independent professional advice and is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or disorder.
    If you believe your symptoms are consistent with those of bowel cancer or a digestive illness, please consult your doctor.
    Bowel Cancer Australia, its directors, officers or medical professionals shall not be liable to any person, company or any other body for any loss, direct or indirect or consequential on whatsoever account for any omission or negligent misstatement.

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