A Modifiable Risk Factor
In an interview, lead investigator Joseph Anderson, MD, said that "the main message from our study is the importance of risk factors other than the traditional ones that we usually look at, such as age and family history. Our study is the first screening study to examine multiple potential colorectal cancer risk factors." Dr. Anderson is assistant professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
The study also heightens the role that the physician can play in helping a patient reduce certain risk factors. "When a gastroenterologist sees a patient, his obligation is not only to screen for problems such as polyps but also to potentially counsel the patients about risk factors that are controllable," he said.
Traditional risk factors, such as family history and age, are not within the realm of a patient’s control, he explained, but "risk factors such as smoking, along with others that may be identifiable in the future from other studies, can indeed be modified by the patient."
He suggested that the gastroenterologist should play a role in counseling patients about modifiable risk factors. "Perhaps the gastroenterologist can also be on the front line, along with the internist and pulmonologist, to help patients stop smoking," Dr. Anderson said.