The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is recommending that everyone diagnosed with colorectal cancer should be screened for an inherited genetic condition called Lynch syndrome (LS).
LS is the most common cause of hereditary bowel cancer and people with it also have an increased risk of developing other cancers such as womb, ovarian and stomach.
Tests for LS are already widely available, but "there is currently wide variation" in their provision, says Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology assessment at NICE. "It is estimated by Bowel Cancer UK that only 50 percent of centres provide tests to assess the risk of Lynch syndrome in people diagnosed with colorectal cancer under the age of 50," she noted.
In new draft guidelines, the Institute says that testing all people with colorectal cancer for the condition will help identify whether the patient's family may also be at increased risk of cancer. This, it says, could lead to increased surveillance and consequently improved patient outcomes through earlier diagnosis and treatment.
An estimated 175,000 people in the UK have Lynch syndrome, and "a large proportion" are unaware that they have the condition, which is estimated to lead to over 1,100 colorectal cancers a year in the country.
"We hear every day how generations have been affected by cancer because of this genetic condition. By testing everyone diagnosed with colorectal cancer we can identify more people who have Lynch syndrome and ensure they receive regular colonoscopy, which can reduce their chance of dying from bowel cancer by up to 72 percent," said Deborah Alsina MBE, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK.