News Release

October 18, 2006

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

Family History is a Major Risk Factor for Colon Cancer

Evidence is Strong, According to Ongoing Research at the Colon Cancer Prevention Program

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Family history is a major risk factor for colon cancer, according to experts at the University of Connecticut Health Center who are studying the early cellular changes that lead to colon cancer.

“A family history of colon cancer, even among second-degree relatives such as aunts, uncles and cousins, appears to have a significant impact on an individual’s risk of developing this disease,” said Joel Levine, M.D., co-director of the Health Center’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program.

“Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and when it is found late, it can be very difficult to treat. That’s why we are focusing our efforts on the very early detection and, better yet, prevention, of colon cancer,” Dr. Levine added.

Unique to the Colon Cancer Prevention Program is sophisticated technology, including an advanced colonoscope that allows Dr. Levine to see the earliest changes in colon tissue that may lead to dangerous polyps years, or even decades, in the future.

“Interestingly, we have seen a higher number of these early cellular changes among patients with a family history of the disease,” Dr. Levine said. “We strongly encourage people with a family history of colon cancer to join our prevention program and work together with us to lower their risk,” he added.

A Personalized Approach

Colon cancer research has been strong for several years at the UConn Health Center. The Colon Cancer Prevention Program opened for patient care a year ago, as part of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. It is open to all men and women over age 18 and appointments are covered by most insurance carriers.

Here’s how the program works. Patients first meet with medical staff to complete a unique assessment of their family and personal medical histories and determine their risk factors. When appropriate, patients may be scheduled to receive a colonoscopy, using the advanced system to magnify even the smallest blood vessels within the colon. No other medical practice in the region offers this high-level technology.

“Based on risk assessment tools and the findings of the colonoscopy, we work with patients to develop individualized colon cancer prevention strategies,” Dr. Levine said. The program draws on strengths from throughout the Health Center and the University of Connecticut to help patients with difficult life-style changes and behavior modification.

“In this program, we are all on one team, working for the best outcomes for our patients. We provide support at every level,” he added.

Patients also have the option of participating in ongoing studies to determine the efficacy of interventions, such as exercise or certain medications, on colon cancer risk. Upcoming studies this year will look at the affect of stress on colon cancer risk and the affect of taste – how individuals experience taste – on colon cancer risk.

“Participation in studies is a personal decision,” Dr. Levine added, noting that clinical research has the potential to dramatically advance knowledge about cancer prevention.

“This is a very exciting program in the newest frontier in medicine, which is prevention. It is a different approach for physicians and patients alike and it works best as a team-effort and an ongoing commitment,” he said.

For more information, call the Colon Cancer Prevention Program at 800-535-6232.

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