30 September 2019

A major new European study has identified the extent to which risk of blood cancers runs in families.

Mixed cellularity Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma and mantle cell lymphoma were found to have the strongest familial component, with first degree relatives facing increased risks of more than ten times, according to the study.

The research also highlighted pleiotropic relationships, in which families face increased risk of a group of haematological malignancies.

In particular, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia was linked to increased familial risk for other B-cell tumours and myeloproliferative neoplasms, according to the findings published in the journal Blood.

For the study, researchers identified more than 150,000 patients diagnosed with a primary blood cancer in the Swedish Family-Cancer Database – and studied the incidence among more than 390,000 first-degree relatives.

The research was a collaboration between the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg, and Lund University in Sweden.

Lead author Dr Amit Sud, from the Institute for Cancer Research, said: “We hope these robust data will be used to inform guidelines on genetic testing and screening. 

“Certainly there are a number of individuals, such as those with a relative diagnosed at a young age and or with more than one affected first-degree relatives, for whom counselling, genetic testing, and surveillance may be appropriate.” 

The UK charity Bloodwise, which helped to fund the research, said in an article about the study: “This research potentially paves the way for people at higher risk to be given counselling or in future to be offered genetic testing. But the really important message is that people shouldn’t worry unduly.

“While there is an increase in risk for family members of people with blood cancer, their risk is still small. This study found that just 4.1% of people diagnosed with blood cancer had a close family relative with the disease.”

Source: Sud, A., Chattopadhyay, S., Thomsen, H., Sundquist, K., Sundquist, J., Houlston, R.S., Hemminki, K. (2019) “Analysis of 153,115 patients with hematological malignancies refines the spectrum of familial risk”, Blood, doi: 10.1182/blood.2019001362


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