Understanding the contribution of family history to colorectal cancer risk and its clinical implications: A state-of-the-science review

Jan T. Lowery, Dennis J. Ahnen, Paul C. Schroy, Heather Hampel, Nancy Baxter, C. Richard Boland, Randall W. Burt, Lynn Butterly, Megan Doerr, Mary Doroshenk, W. Gregory Feero, Nora Henrikson, Uri Ladabaum, David Lieberman, Elizabeth G. McFarland, Susan K. Peterson, Martha Raymond, N. Jewel Samadder, Sapna Syngal, Thomas K. WeberAnn G. Zauber, Robert Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Persons with a family history (FH) of colorectal cancer (CRC) or adenomas that are not due to known hereditary syndromes have an increased risk for CRC. An understanding of these risks, screening recommendations, and screening behaviors can inform strategies for reducing the CRC burden in these families. A comprehensive review of the literature published within the past 10 years has been performed to assess what is known about cancer risk, screening guidelines, adherence and barriers to screening, and effective interventions in persons with an FH of CRC and to identify FH tools used to identify these individuals and inform care. Existing data show that having 1 affected first-degree relative (FDR) increases the CRC risk 2-fold, and the risk increases with multiple affected FDRs and a younger age at diagnosis. There is variability in screening recommendations across consensus guidelines. Screening adherence is <50% and is lower in persons under the age of 50 years. A provider's recommendation, multiple affected relatives, and family encouragement facilitate screening; insufficient collection of FH, low knowledge of guidelines, and poor family communication are important barriers. Effective interventions incorporate strategies for overcoming barriers, but these have not been broadly tested in clinical settings. Four strategies for reducing CRC in persons with familial risk are suggested: 1) improving the collection and utilization of the FH of cancer, 2) establishing a consensus for screening guidelines by FH, 3) enhancing provider-patient knowledge of guidelines and communication about CRC risk, and 4) encouraging survivors to promote screening within their families and partnering with existing screening programs to expand their reach to high-risk groups. Cancer 2016.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2633-2645
Number of pages13
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • colorectal cancer
  • family history
  • interventions
  • risk
  • screening adherence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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