Familial colorectal cancer risk in half siblings and siblings: Nationwide cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: To explore the risk of colorectal cancer in family members of patients with colorectal cancer, with an emphasis on subtypes of second degree relatives, especially half siblings, which were lacking in the literature. Design: Ambidirectional cohort study. Setting: Nationwide Swedish Family Cancer Data (record linkage). Participants: All people residing in Sweden and born after 1931, with their biological parents, totalling >16 million individuals (follow-up: 1958-2015); of those with clear genealogy, 173 796 developed colorectal cancer. Main outcome measures: Lifetime (0-79 years) cumulative risk and standardised incidence ratio of colorectal cancer among first degree relatives and second degree relatives. Results: The overall lifetime cumulative risk of colorectal cancer in siblings of patients was 7%, which represents a 1.7-fold (95% confidence interval 1.6 to 1.7; n=2089) increase over the risk in those without any family history of colorectal cancer. A similarly increased lifetime cumulative risk (6%) was found among half siblings (standardised incidence ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval 1.3 to 1.8; n=140). The risk in people with colorectal cancer in both a parent and a half sibling (standardised incidence ratio 3.6, 2.4 to 5.0; n=32) was close to the risk in those with both an affected parent and an affected sibling (2.7, 2.4 to 3.0; n=396). Family history of colorectal cancer in only one second degree relative other than a half sibling (without any affected first degree relatives), such as a grandparent, uncle, or aunt, showed minor association with the risk of colorectal cancer. Conclusion: Family history of colorectal cancer in half siblings is similarly associated with colorectal cancer risk to that in siblings. The increase in risk of colorectal cancer among people with one affected second degree relative was negligible, except for half siblings, but the risk was substantially increased for a combination of family history in one affected second degree relative and an affected first degree relative (or even another second degree relative). These evidence based findings provide novel information to help to identify people at high risk with a family history of colorectal cancer that can potentially be used for risk adapted screening.


External organisations
  • German Cancer Research Centre
  • Heidelberg University
  • Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Shimane University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Original languageEnglish
Article numberl803
JournalBMJ (Online)
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch