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Individuals who have been diagnosed with urologic cancers have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, and vice versa, according to data recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. These results may provide potential changes in screening guidelines.

Urologic cancers refer to cancers of the kidney (two organs that filter the blood and produce urine), ureters (tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder through which urine is transported), the bladder (a hollow organ that stores urine), and the urethra (the tube from the bladder to outside the body through which urine is disposed). Colorectal cancer refers to cancers of the colon (the largest portion of the large intestine) and the rectum (the last few inches of the large intestine). Although it has been recognized that patients with the genetic disease hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) have an increased rate of urologic cancers, the association between urologic and colorectal cancer incidence has not been studied outside of HNPCC patients.

Researchers from Chicago recently conducted a clinical study to further evaluate the potential association between urologic and colorectal cancers. This study included data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database from 1973 to 2000.

• The risk for colorectal cancer was significantly increased among individuals already diagnosed with urologic cancer, specifically cancers of the renal pelvis and ureter.

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• The risk for urologic cancers (cancer of the renal pelvis and ureter) was increased among patients already diagnosed with colorectal cancers, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal cancer between the ages of 50 and 60 years or those diagnosed with several sites of colorectal cancer.

The researchers concluded that “Previous renal pelvis and ureteral cancers, particularly when diagnosed at an early age, increase the risk for subsequent CRC. Likewise, a history of CRC, especially in cases with multiple primary tumors, is associated with an increased risk of renal pelvis and ureteral cancers. These findings support a possible common pathogenetic mechanism between CRC and urologic cancers and may have implications for screening guidelines.”

Patients who have been diagnosed with either colorectal or urologic cancers may wish to speak with their physician regarding recommended screening procedures for cancers they may be at a high risk for developing.

Reference: Calderwood A, Huo D, Rubin D, et al. Association Between Colorectal Cancer and Urologic Cancers. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2008; 168:1003-1009.

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