A new study released on Wednesday shows that patients with a family history of colon cancer are also more likely to survive the disease.
The study collected and analyzed the data from 1,087 patients being treated for Stage III colon cancer. Nearly 18 percent of the group said they had one or more parents or siblings with a history of the disease.
Previous researches had found that people with a family history of colon cancer have twice the risk of developing the disease themselves.
The latest study shows that those who had at least one close family member with colon cancer were 28 percent less likely to die from the disease than those with no close link.
The risk of dying was even lower for those with two or more relatives with the disease. Those patients had a 51 percent lower risk for cancer recurrence or death.
"This news may be reassuring to people with a family history, but our hope is that we can discover what underlies this effect of family history in biological terms," said the study's first author, Dr. Jennifer Chan, from Dana-Farber's Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology.
Dr. Charles Fuchs of Dana-Farber said the form of colorectal cancer linked to family history behaves differently because of "something biologic, but we just don't know yet what that is."
Dr. Boris Pasche of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago suggested the same field would lead to the discovery of new genetic features that can predict how tumors respond to chemotherapy.