source: American Cancer Society
Most colorectal cancers are found in people without a family history of colorectal cancer. Still, as many as 1 in 5 people with colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it.
People with a history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) are at increased risk. The risk is even higher if the first-degree relative was diagnosed when they were younger than 45, or if more than one first-degree relative is affected.
The reasons for the increased risk are not clear in all cases. Cancers can “run in the family” because of inherited genes, shared environmental factors, or some combination of these.
Having family members who have had adenomatous polyps is also linked to a higher risk of colon cancer. (Adenomatous polyps are the kind of polyps that can become cancer.)
If you have a family history of adenomatous polyps or colorectal cancer, ask your doctor if you should start screening before age 50. If you have had adenomatous polyps or colorectal cancer, it’s important to tell your close relatives so that they can pass along that information to their doctors and start screening at the right age.