MD Anderson Launches Cancer Risk Check

Online Survey Offers Personalized Feedback Based on Individual Cancer Risk

MD Anderson News Release 10/07/10

The University of Texas MD Anderson has launched Cancer Risk Check, an online tool that determines a person’s chances of developing common cancers and identifies personalized lifestyle changes and cancer screening exams that may reduce risk.

MD Anderson experts developed Cancer Risk Check using the institution’s latest recommendations for cancer screening exams, as well as current cancer trends and statistics found among U.S. populations.

Cancer Risk Check gathers information on a person’s gender, age, race, health history and lifestyle habits to produce a personalized report on risks for common cancers, customized suggestions on lifestyle changes that can reduce cancer risk and recommended cancer screening tests.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 40 percent of Americans will develop cancer during their lifetimes, and at least half of all new cancer cases could be detected earlier by screening or prevented.

“Personal cancer risk and screening exam guidelines are not absolute and can be confusing,” said Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center and Prevention Outreach Programs.

“We created Cancer Risk Check to be simple to use and to empower people to take actions for a healthier lifestyle, whether that’s increasing physical activity or making a cancer screening appointment.”

Cancer Risk Check is divided into four sections: personal and family health history, tobacco use and exposure, sun exposure, and diet and exercise.

Before beginning the questionnaire, users are asked to gather as much information as possible about their personal and family health history [See SIDEBAR A]. They also are advised to take their personal profile to their next doctor’s visit for further evaluation.

Cancer Risk Check will be updated annually to maintain consistency with MD Anderson’s screening recommendations. To view the new Cancer Risk Check, visit the web site. 

SIDEBAR A: How to Gather Family History of Cancer

Experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center suggest that people speak with relatives about family history of cancer. A small percentage of cancers – five to 10 percent – are inherited. Some breast, colorectal, ovarian and endometrial cancers are associated with family history.

Learning more about family history of cancer can help primary care physicians determine whether to recommend genetic testing to look for abnormal genetic changes in a person’s blood sample. People who inherit abnormal genes from a parent may be at increased risk of developing cancer.

Holidays and family gatherings are a great time to talk to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even cousins about family history of cancer. Here are some helpful tips for gathering this information:

  • Reach out to family members individually before the gathering to let them know that you are interested in collecting the family’s cancer history and explain how sharing family cancer history can potentially help the whole family live a healthier life.
  • Start collecting information by writing down your own health history and share it with your family members.
  • Speak with older relatives. They are usually good sources for this information.
  • Make sure to include family relationship (e.g. mother’s side or father’s side) and age of diagnosis.
  • Gather hospital records when there is some uncertainty.
    − Hospitals can release records directly to the patient.
    − If a relative has passed away, hospitals can release records to the next of kin (the closest relative(s) entitled to the deceased individual’s property).

Once a family history has been compiled, be sure to give it to your health care providers so that it is kept as a permanent part of your medical file.

Having a close relative with cancer does not automatically mean that you are at increased risk of developing the disease. Cancers related to diet and lifestyle are more common than those related to family history. Risks of developing many cancers can be lowered by making healthy choices such as not smoking, wearing sunscreen, eating nutritious foods and exercising. 10/07/10