Distress among inflammatory bowel disease patients at high risk for colorectal cancer: a preliminary investigation of the effects of family history of cancer, disease duration, and perceived social support

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Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are one of only three groups at high risk for colorectal cancer (CRC), a leading cause of cancer-related mortality. Yet, no research has examined psychological effects of their high-risk status. The present study offered an initial investigation of three potential predictors of patient distress: disease duration, family history of cancer, and perceived social support. Longer disease duration and stronger family history of cancer are associated with elevated CRC risk in this already high-risk population. Perceived support was conceptualized as a resource that could decrease vulnerability to distress or buffer adverse psychological effects of disease duration and family history. Men and women (n = 223) with IBD participating in a colon disease family registry completed measures for this crosssectional study. Family history of CRC and non-colorectal cancers among first-degree relatives (FDRs) and more distant relatives (DRs) was examined separately. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that having greater perceived support predicted lower generalized distress (p<0.001). Having an FDR history of CRC predicted higher CRC-specific distress (p = 0.02). Having a DR history of CRC also predicted higher CRC-specific distress, but only among patients diagnosed more recently (p = 0.03). Clinical implications of these findings are discussed along with future research directions.

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