According to a study, published in the Journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, colon cancer arrived to the United States from England around 1630 when the founding fathers migrated for the first time to the current United States territory.
Pilgrims are the early settlers who came to the United States from England and the Netherlands. They migrated from those countries because they were not allowed to follow their religious beliefs. Among these early pilgrims there was a married couple who may be the fist one with a specific mutation that causes colon cancer.
Researchers, from the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at The University of Utah, have found that this married couple who came to the United States may be the ancestors of a gene that makes modern US people susceptible of colon cancer.
Dr Deborah Neklason, lead researcher and assistant professor (University of Utah), believes (according to what is published in the study) that the mutation of a gene that many Americans carry today (and that produces colon cancer) have been traced successfully to this common ancestor who came from England around 1630.
Researchers studied two large families: one from Utah and one from New York. Both families have the gene mutation that significantly predisposes the carrier to develop colon cancer. Both families have a common ancestor: a married couple who migrated from England.
More than 7000 members spanning nine generations from the Utah family were investigated from the Utah Population Database and the public records of the Mormon Church. The data revealed that family members from this Utah family had an unusual higher rate of colon cancer incidence.
Genetic analysis of a group of people from this Utah family was performed revealing the presence of a particular mutation in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene. This mutation causes what is known attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP).
AFAP is not dangerous per se but predisposes people who have it to develop colon cancer. With the right care and preventive measures people with the mutation will never develop colon cancer. However, AFAP is tricky because it is not easily detected. A few polyps are developed without patients noticing before it is too late.
The study highlights the importance of knowing the family history of patients to develop appropriate strategies for cancer prevention. Also highlights the importance of genetic testing in cancer detection and specifically in colon cancer detection.