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Reuters Health Information (2005-07-29): Risk of pancreatic cancer doubled in first-degree relatives of probands


Risk of pancreatic cancer doubled in first-degree relatives of probands

Last Updated: 2005-07-29 15:15:30 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Parents, offspring, and siblings of patients with pancreatic cancer are at increased risk of the same malignancy, according to a study at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.

"Other reports have suggested that pancreatic cancer seems to have a genetic component, so we wanted to examine our registry to see if relatives of our patients have an increased risk for pancreatic cancer and other cancers," lead investigator Dr. Robert R. McWilliams told Reuters Health. "We were also trying to find if there are any associations with other malignancies that might lead us to find an etiology for inheritance of pancreatic cancer risk."

This is important, he added, since pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.

Dr. McWilliams and his associates surveyed 426 consecutive patients with pancreatic cancer who presented between 2000 and 2004. Rates of malignancy among 3355 first-degree relatives were compared with population data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Project (SEER) 9. Their findings appear in the July 15th issue of Cancer.

There were 30 cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed among first-degree relatives. The standardized incidence ratio (SIR) for pancreatic cancer was 1.88. Relatives of probands diagnosed with pancreatic cancer before age 60 were at even greater increased risk (SIR 2.86).

"This adds to other data that suggests there is a genetic syndrome specific to pancreatic cancer," Dr. McWilliams said.

Other than liver cancer, there were no associations with other malignancies in families with pancreatic cancer. Even for liver cancer, where risk appeared to be approximately doubled, Dr. McWilliams believes that the elevated risk reflects the fact that pancreatic cancer tends to metastasize to the liver.

What do these findings mean clinically? "I do think relatives should know of the possibility that they are at increased risk," the researcher said, "and should be aware of symptoms such as weight loss and jaundice, so that if they do get pancreatic cancer it has a higher chance of being caught early."

He noted that the Mayo Clinic is part of a consortium of major medical centers currently performing a linkage study to determine if there is a susceptibility gene or genes responsible for the familial cases.

Cancer 2005;104:388-394.

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