Cancer genetics clinics and the surgeon: a valuable role for family history screening

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This study examines how a colorectal surgeon can use a regional cancer genetics service to deal safely and efficiently, with community referrals for colorectal cancer screening on the basis of family history.


A retrospective review of consecutive asymptomatic people with a strong family of colorectal cancer referred by the surgeon to the genetics service over a 30-month period.


A total of 45 people were referred by the surgeon to the cancer genetics service. Following official verification of family histories, 15 were thought to be in a low-risk category for developing colorectal cancer, 18 were moderate risk, 4 had high-to-moderate risk and 2 satisfied the criteria for HNPCC. After official authentication, it was discovered that 20% of people had mistakenly informed the surgeon of important inaccuracies in their family history.


The cancer genetics service seeks to identify accurately those at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer due to their family history. It has the time, resources and expertise to verify officially a family history that cannot be properly done in a busy surgical clinic. This study shows that it can provide a valuable role for correctly identifying and counselling people who truly require screening due to their familial predisposition for colorectal cancer.

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