In a real tour de force study, Dr. Alison Klein and her colleagues in the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry (NFPTR) at Johns Hopkins have shown that individuals with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer themselves. Dr. Klein and colleagues published their findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institutes (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36029239/)
Dr. Klein and colleagues followed over 21,000 individuals enrolled in the NFPTR over time and compared the number of new pancreatic cancers that developed to the number expected in the general population. They found that individuals who came from families in which at least a pair of first-degree relatives (parent-child, or siblings) had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were 4.86 times more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than the general population. In addition, Dr. Klein and colleagues found that the more close relatives study participants had, the higher the risk. So, the risk of pancreatic cancer was increased 3.46 fold in individuals who came from families in which at least a pair of first-degree relatives (parent-child, or siblings) had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who had only one close relative with pancreatic cancer. The risk was increased 5.44 fold for individuals with two close relatives, and it was increased 10.8 fold in individuals with three close family members who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Simply put, having a close family member with pancreatic cancer increases one’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the future, and the more family members one has who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the greater the risk.
What does this mean? These results have at least two important implications. 1) They suggest that individuals in families in which a number of family members have had pancreatic cancer may wish to consider genetic counseling to see if they would benefit from genetic testing for inherited genes that might predispose them to develop cancer. 2) The results also may form the basis for future screening tests for early pancreatic cancer (now being performed in the research setting).
To learn more about familial risk and the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry (NFPTR), click here.