A new study has reported that those with a parent who died of breast, prostate or colon cancer and who develop the same cancer as their parent are more likely to die from it than cancer patients without such a fatal family history. The study was designed to investigate the relationship between familiality and mortality in cancer. If a fatal form of cancer has a highly familial subtype, then familial risk for mortality may also be relatively high. This would be particularly relevant for clinical decision making and counseling. The study included individuals in the nationwide Swedish Family-Cancer Database who were classified according to family history of fatal and nonfatal cancer. Cancer patients without a family history of cancer were the reference.

For a given cancer, the risk of developing the same cancer among sons and daughters was somewhat higher for those whose parent died of the cancer compared to those with a nonfatal parental family history. For breast cancer, 51.0% of patients with familial breast cancer had fatal family history. For prostate cancer, 56.6% of patients with prostate cancer had fatal family history. Risk of death in offspring according to fatal compared to nonfatal family history were significantly elevated for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. Tumor stage did not appear to vary according to family history. It was found that the overwhelming majority of offspring were diagnosed after their parents' deaths. The authors conclude that familial breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers might have a yet unidentified genetic component associated with poorer survival.

Please see our article on how to reduce breast cancer in daughters for more information on how to reduce risk of breast cancer in daughters of survivors.