The majority of people who develop bowel cancer do not have a family history of the disease. If however there is a history of bowel cancer in your family you may be at increased risk.
Regardless of your age, consult your GP to understand your risk and discuss bowel screening methods best suited to your situation.
Your risk may be three to six times higher than average if you have:
- one first-degree relative diagnosed with bowel cancer before the age of 55; or
- two first or second-degree relatives diagnosed with bowel cancer on the same side of the family, at any age.
Most people with moderately increased risk will not develop bowel cancer, but it is important that you are proactive about screening. Your GP or specialist will most likely recommend a colonoscopy every five years starting from age 50, or 10 years younger than the age of the youngest person in your family when they were diagnosed with bowel cancer.
You may be among the small group of people who have an even higher chance of developing bowel cancer if you have:
- more than two first or second-degree relatives diagnosed with bowel cancer on the same side of the family; or
- a family history of genetic conditions such as Lynch Syndrome, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis or other rare conditions.
Depending on the history, your GP may refer you to a familial cancer service for assessment and possibly genetic testing.
Know Your Risk is a simple and interactive website that guides you through a series of steps to build a family tree of close relatives whose history may impact your risk of bowel cancer. Read more