Smarter screening methods could halve bowel cancer

October 15th, 2008 - 12:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 15 (IANS) Modifying the approach to genetic screening for cancers could halve deaths caused by a form of bowel cancer that is inherited, according to a new study. John Hopper - an Australia Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council -said current cancer genetic screening programmes are highly focussed on breast cancer and typically based on family history alone.

But studies in Britain and Australia have now shown that most of the women who have been tested had a low chance of carrying a faulty gene which causes cancer, according to a press release of Melbourne University.

Instead, he says, genetic screening should focus more on testing the tumours of young people who develop cancers to determine if they are caused by an inherited genetic fault which might be shared by other family members.

“If we redirect the emphasis of our genetic screening programmes to focus more on people who already have cancer we can make a really big difference,” he said.

“We can work with patients to help prevent them developing new cancers, or at least detect them at an early stage, and we can arm their families with the knowledge to help save lives.”

Hopper said that in the case of bowel cancer, deaths caused by an inherited form of the disease could effectively be halved if the tumours of early-onset cancer sufferers were routinely tested for signs of an inherited genetic cause.

“We now have evidence from studies carried out in Australia and elsewhere that show how to do this in the most cost-effective manner,” he said. “Relatives of the patient could, if they wished, then also be tested for the same genetic fault.

“Those who were found to be carriers could then receive regular bowel screenings to detect early signs of any cancers and greatly reduce their chance of dying from the disease.”

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