Study Looks at Family History Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer and Type 2 Diabetes

Vector Illustration of Family Tree of Three GenerationsIt’s well known that family history is a risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer, and so it is often included in clinical practice guidelines.

To examine this more closely, US researchers created a study to evaluate the consistency of the use of family history in selected clinical practice guidelines for both colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. They also looked at how these definitions influence overall screening recommendations.

The results of their study appeared in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in the article “Use of family history in clinical guidelines for diabetes and colorectal cancer.”

The research team used a Web-based search to review clinical guidelines that were issued between 2001 and 2011; analyses were completed in May 2011.

Guidelines were from Australia, Canada, the UK, the US, and the World Health Organization. A total of 21 guidelines used in the study included family history information—14 guidelines for colorectal cancer and 7 guidelines for type 2 diabetes.

For each of the guidelines, researchers recorded the definition of family history and the way in which the definition influenced screening recommendations.

It was noted that family history was defined most often as the presence of first-degree relatives who have the disease. However, the definition of family history and its impact on recommendations varied substantially—even for the same disease.

In addition, the number of relatives with the disease as well as their age at diagnosis were sometimes considered when making specific recommendations.

Through examining the clinical guidelines in the study, the research team found that family history is a major risk factor for both colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. However, they observed that its use in screening recommendations is not consistent in major organizations’ clinical guidelines. But they noted that the differences observed are not large enough to prevent achieving consensus among the guidelines for each disease.

The researchers suggest that standardized recommendations for use of family history in screening guidelines for both colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes could improve their effectiveness in helping to prevent these diseases.

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